Prenatal determinants of brain development: Recent studies and methodological advances

Stephen A. Back, Alan (Roger) Hohimer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


Despite advances in neonatal intensive care, survivors of premature birth remain highly susceptible to unique patterns of developmental brain injury that manifest as cerebral palsy and cognitive-learning disabilities. Whereas preterm infants were previously at high risk for destructive brain lesions that resulted in cystic white matter injury and secondary cortical and subcortical gray matter degeneration, contemporary cohorts of preterm survivors commonly display less severe injury that does not appear to involve pronounced glial or neuronal loss. Cerebral development in fetal sheep shares many anatomical and physiological similarities with human. Thus, the fetal sheep has provided unique experimental access to the complex pathophysiological processes that contribute to injury to the human brain during successive periods in development. Recent refinements have resulted in models that replicate major features of acute and chronic human cerebral injury and which have provided access to complex clinically relevant studies of cerebral blood flow and neuro-imaging that are not feasible in smaller laboratory animals.We focus here on emerging insights and methodologies from studies in fetal sheep that have begun to define cellular and vascular factors that contribute to preterm white and gray matter injury. Despite the higher costs and technical challenges of instrumented preterm fetal sheep models, they provide powerful access to clinically relevant studies that provide a more integrated analysis of the spectrum of insults that appear to contribute to cerebral injury in human preterm infants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationNeuromethods
PublisherHumana Press Inc.
Number of pages24
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016

Publication series

ISSN (Print)0893-2336
ISSN (Electronic)1940-6045


  • Apoptosis
  • Cerebral blood flow
  • Dendrite
  • Hypoxia-ischemia
  • MRI
  • Necrosis
  • Neuron
  • Oligodendrocyte
  • White matter injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • General Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Neuroscience


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