Scientists to Map Babies’ Brain Development

May 9, 2013

【Unlocking Word Meanings】

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. vital 
[vahyt-l] (adj.) – very important or necessary to continue life
Example: Breastfeeding is vital in strengthening the immune system of newborns.

2. sophisticated [suh-FIS-ti-key-tid] (adj.) – complex or advanced
ExampleSophisticated technology makes it possible to see 3D view of the human brain.

3. womb [woom] (n.) – the part of a woman’s body that carries a baby during pregnancy
Example: A fetus stays in their mothers’ wombs for nine months before being born.

4. neurological [noo r-uh-LOJ-i-kuh l] (adj.) – pertaining to the nerves and the nervous system
Example: MRI is one of the methods used to study neurological processes.

5. perception [per-SEP-shuh n] (n.) – the act of using the senses to understand or comprehend
Example: The scientist’s perception changed upon seeing the latest results of the experiment.


Read the text below.

Researchers in UK have started a six-year research that will map changes and development in the brains of infants before and after birth.

Scientists from Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Hospital, King’s College London, Imperial College and Oxford University are working on the Developing Human Connectome Project that aims to research on 1,500 babies.

Earlier, a similar project called Human Connectome Project analyzed adult brains and found that technology could indeed map out brain changes.

David Edwards, Center for the Developing Brain director and the study’s leader, said that the time when infants are still in the womb is vital because a lot of changes are happening in the brain during this period. 

Scientists will use sophisticated MRI scanning methods to map the normal rates of infant brain development. Before, getting clear brain images was almost impossible because of the baby’s constant movement in the mothers’ wombs. But with 3D technology, researchers can get clearer pictures even when the baby is moving.

Researchers believe neurological development must be studied because brain formation may contribute in shaping a baby’s perception and cognitive processes. Brain development may also determine the possibility of developing conditions like autism.

However, Partha Mitra of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York warned that the brain images that technology captured and the actual brain still have a big difference. 

【Viewpoint Discussion】

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         Why do you think is it important to study the brain?
·         How can early detection of brain problems help humans?

Discussion B

·         What other factors do you think affect a baby’s development? Please explain your answer.
·         How can a baby’s environment (e.g. house, parents and other adults, etc.) affect him or her?


May 9, 2013