A doctor at University of Virginia Children’s is using an elegant new approach to mapping brain activity to shed light on what happens during seizures in newborns that can lead to behavioral issues and learning disabilities much later.
New research by UVA neonatologist Jennifer Burnsed, MD, and colleagues suggests that the brain’s learning and memory centers are among the regions most affected by seizures caused by inadequate oxygen and blood flow. That lack of oxygen and blood, called hypoxia-ischemia, is a leading cause of death and disability in newborns. It is often caused by an event around the time of birth, such as a detached placenta or umbilical cord accidents.
“When babies have these brain injuries early on, it’s really hard for us to predict outcomes, especially in the babies who are not as severely affected. A lot of them will look pretty good when they leave [intensive care] and then, several years later, when they go to school, things pop up — behavioral problems, cognitive problems, learning disabilities,” Burnsed said. “That’s one of the things that’s always frustrated me as a clinician, so we have brought that question into the lab, to try to figure out exactly what is going on in the neonatal brain.”