Newborn infants are extremely vulnerable to brain injury, and while the cause and nature of newborn brain injuries varies widely, one common factor is that infants who suffer a brain injury at birth often go on to develop cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is a group of permanent movement disorders that can severely limit the control of the muscles, and can have a devastating impact on quality of life. Cerebral palsy is also the most common form of childhood disability in Europe and every year, approximately 1800 children in the UK are diagnosed with the condition.
The early diagnosis of cerebral palsy is critical. While there is no cure for the condition, there are a number of treatments that can improve an infant’s long-term motor ability. During the first few weeks and months of life the brain is highly adaptable, which means it is likely to be at its most susceptible to treatment. If infants with abnormal motor development could be identified early, these treatments would have the greatest chance of success.
The ANIMATE project is funded by the EPSRC and aims to develop and apply a new, wearable, infant-friendly optical brain imaging technology to study the development of the motor system in both healthy and at-risk infants. The ultimate goal is to demonstrate that this technology can provide a new, objective approach to the identification and monitoring of infants with cerebral palsy.
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