Cognitive development at age two years could be predicted with 95 percent accuracy using MRI brain scans and machine learning techniques at birth, finds a new study. The research findings are published in the journal NeuroImage.
"This prediction could help identify children at risk for poor cognitive development shortly after birth with high accuracy," said senior author John H. Gilmore, MD, Thad and Alice Eure Distinguished Professor of psychiatry and director of the UNC Center for Excellence in Community Mental Health. "For these children, an early intervention in the first year or so of life - when cognitive development is happening - could help improve outcomes. For example, in premature infants who are at risk, one could use imaging to see who could have problems."
The study used an application of artificial intelligence called machine learning to look at white matter connections in the brain at birth and the ability of these connections to predict cognitive outcomes.
"Our study finds that the white matter network at birth is highly predictive and may be a useful imaging biomarker. The fact that we could replicate the findings in a second set of children provides strong evidence that this may be a real and generalizable finding," he said.