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Brain imaging as a measure of future cognitive function in children

We are starting an exciting project introducing a neuroimaging toolkit in rural and urban Bangladesh to study brain structure and function in infants and toddlers. Our two-year project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a collaboration between Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, University of Virginia, University College London, and the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b).

We will be using functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), electroencephalograms (EEG) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study the association between exposure to early adversities (e.g., biological, environmental, psychosocial) and brain development in children of Bangladesh. The combination of these imaging techniques along with other behavioral assessments (Mullen Scales of Early Learning, various cognitive function tests) will provide a much-needed data base on early brain and cognitive development in a low resource region of the world of data on brain function and structure within existing populations.

Although previous research in low-income settings have used coarse behavioral measures to gauge development, using imaging and behavioral assessments provides us with a robust set of tools that are portable, low-cost methods of assessing cognitive development, which can potentially be deployed globally, particularly in low resource settings where adversities are abundant.

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