Weighing in on everything from avocados to Zimbabwe

Weighing in on everything from avocados to Zimbabwe

UW Fetal Brain MRI Study

posted by Leila Z. on

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I do (kidney) research for a living, so when I found out I was pregnant, I was excited to experience clinical research from the other side. A few weeks ago baby Z and I participated in a cool study currently being conducted at the University of Washington that was seeking pregnant volunteers to build a high resolution fetal brain MRI database.

When fetal brain abnormalities are detected via ultrasound during a pregnancy, an MRI could provide additional useful information to women and providers. However, since you can't instruct the little nugget to stay still for an hour, up until now 3-D imaging has been of limited use. But researchers at the University of Washington have developed technology that is both high resolution and that can capture images even when the baby is moving (I'm imagining something like video stabilizing technology, but who knows?). This project aims to build a database of different baby brains throughout pregnancy for comparison. 

A few weeks ago, in my 19th week of pregnancy, I spent about an hour in an MRI at the UW Roosevelt clinic. I changed into scrubs, got rid of my jewelry (no metal allowed except rings), and was fed into the machine. It was rather close, although I was only enclosed up to my mid-torso. I was also provided earplugs and earphones with which to listen to my choice of Pandora stations (Gillian Welch). There was a rather loud clanking noise from the machine the majority of the time, but honestly my life is so hectic I welcomed the opportunity to lie there doing nothing for an hour, and I almost fell asleep. 

For me, the best part was after the MRI (and getting the $50 Amazon gift card!), when the radiology technician showed me some of the images and even a video (I also received a CD with images/video a couple of weeks later). I was astounded to see my favorite little alien moving around in there -- it looked like he was having quite the dance party! It put a huge smile on my face the rest of the day to have a mental image of what was going on down below every time my stomach turns and tickles. Here is the video -- taken over about 90 seconds but speeded up slightly below. I figure that, with those moves, he'll either be a runner or a dancer, or maybe both!

If you are interested in participating in this study, you can find more information here. Women must be between 18 and 36 weeks pregnant and between 18 and 45 years old to enroll. You can participate in the study up to three times, and there is an optional "phase II" to the project when your child is 19-21 months.

Update: we did the study again at 24 weeks! Here's our little guy, much more developed but much less active on this particular day:

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