This study describes the initial results from novel quantitative and qualitative explorations of specific central nervous system structures. The development of cerebral deep grey matter structures was the focus, and normal development was contrasted against fetuses diagnosed with ventricular dilatation or with fetal growth restriction. No significant differences were found in the basal ganglia volume between the volumetric development of the normal and ventriculomegaly cohorts, despite the cohort containing ventricular volumes up to 6 times larger than the normal fetuses. This was unexpected since there did not appear to be a concurrent increase in total brain volume for these fetuses, suggesting that there may be volumetric reductions in other brain tissues.
These findings are not consistent with previous studies which show relative preservation of thalamic volume in fetal growth restriction. This may be due to the difference in methodology between the present study and prior ones, which have not been able to compensate for motion-artifacted brain images.
This is the first study of volumetric quantification of deep grey matter structures that has used the SVR method to generate consistent 3D volumetric datasets of the fetal brain in order to correct for fetal motion and so increase the accuracy of quantitative measures. Future work could further investigate the shape of these brain structures in normal and pathological conditions in order to enhance our understanding of the morphological development of the CNS. Also, gender comparisons can be made as well as left versus right asymmetries.
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