Bridging the gap before and after birth: Methods and technologies to explore the functional neural development in humans
Infant brain damage is a serious condition that affects millions of babies each year. The period from late gestation to the first year of life is the most critical one for the development of central and autonomous nervous systems. Medical conditions such as preterm birth may compromise brain function and the end result usually is that the baby may experience long-term neurological problems related to a wide range of psychological, physical and functional complications, with consequent life-long burdens for the individuals and their families, and a high socio-economic impact for the health care system and the whole of society. During the last years, several techniques have been employed to monitor the brain functional development in utero and after birth. As well, various analytical methods have been used to understand the functional maturation of the brain and the autonomous nervous system. However, in spite of the rapid improvement of diagnostic methods and procedures, there is still a widely recognized, severe shortage of clinically viable means for the high quality monitoring of the brain function in early life with a direct relevance to acute neurological illness and future neurocognitive outcomes. The studies collected in this e-book document the most recent advancements in monitoring systems, analytical methods and clinical diagnostic procedures that contribute to increase our knowledge of the functional development of the human brain and autonomous nervous system during pregnancy and after birth, with the ultimate goal of reducing fetal impairment and improving healthcare in the neonatal and infant period.