Mental Development Delays Predicted with Brain Chemical Ratio

There is some good news for the future parents. Apparently the specialists have found a biomarker that can predict whether the baby has any risks of motor development problems. This may be a way to prepare the parents for the future problems that the baby might have.

Mental Development Delays Predicted with Brain Chemical Ratio

Premature Birth

In our days even the most premature babies have a chance in life. Nonetheless, one of the major risks that the babies of this kind have to face is the neurodevelopmental problems. The researchers have been working with 43 babies born before the 32nd week of gestation and that have been admitted to the NICU between 2007 and 2010.

The Study

The researchers performed MRIs on the babies and MRS exams on the date that they were supposed to have been born. MRS is used to measure the chemical levels of the brain. The study has been focusing on the white matter of the brain which is made of the nerve fibers which represent the links of the brain’s functional centers.

Basic Biology

It is a known fact that white matter is very sensitive in case of the newborns and it is prone to injuries. A year later 40 babies have been assessed, using the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development. This is meant to assess the gross motor, communication, and fine motor abilities. 15 of the babies reached abnormal motor scores and 4 of them showed the signs of cognitive impairment.

The Results

Based on the MRS results and the test scores, the specialists have found two chemical ratios: decreased NAA/Cho and increased Cho/Cr. The levels of these two chemicals at birth seem to be in close relationship with the developmental delays in the later stages.


These two chemicals are able to predict developmental delays with a certainty of 70%. The specialists claim that the results that they reached are important to know which babies should receive intensive care upon birth. There are physiotherapy interventions available, but these are very expensive and the majority of the babies don’t need them.

Future Developments

The specialists hope that they will find a robust biomarker that will show the results of the interventions, so that they won’t have to wait 6-7 years in order to be able to assess the abilities of the babies. The specialists also add that the rate of disabilities has decreased over the past 20 years due to modern technology.


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