Neuroimaging perspectives on fetal motor behavior

Publication date: September 2018
Source:Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, Volume 92
Author(s): Tayyib T.A. Hayat, Mary A. Rutherford
We are entering a new era of understanding human development with the ability to perform studies at the earliest time points possible. There is a substantial body of evidence to support the concept that early motor behaviour originates from supraspinal motor centres, reflects neurological integrity, and that altered patterns of behaviour precede clinical manifestation of disease. Cine Magnetic Resonance Imaging (cineMRI) has established its value as a novel method to visualise motor behaviour in the human fetus, building on the wealth of knowledge gleaned from ultrasound based studies. This paper presents a state of the art review incorporating findings from human and preclinical models, the insights from which, we propose, can proceed a reconceptualisation of fetal motor behaviour using advanced imaging techniques. Foremost is the need to better understand the role of the intrauterine environment, and its inherent unique set of stimuli that activate sensorimotor pathways and shape early brain development. Finally, an improved model of early motor development, combined with multimodal imaging, will provide a novel source of in utero biomarkers predictive of neurodevelopmental disorders.