James Boardman

Dr James Boardman is the Scientific Director of the University’s Jennifer Brown Research Laboratory in the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health.

A number of neurodevelopmental problems have origins in the womb. Our goal is to develop and evaluate protective strategies for fetuses and premature babies who are at risk of brain injury and poor neurodevelopmental outcome.

This picture shows detailed maps of brain wiring in a sleeping new-born baby (left) and an adult in their seventies (right) visualised using MRI. The coloured lines represent the wires of the brain that form the basis of the human “neural network”. These images came from studies designed to assess the effect of premature birth on the development of brain connections and to identify areas of age related damage (shown as blue solids) in older adults.

My research goal is to identify ways to protect the developing brain in fetuses during pregnancy and babies born preterm — that is, born before 32 weeks.

Our work involves researching the role of neonatal quantitative Magnetic Resonance imaging (MR) to investigate the biological and/or environmental conditions that lead to abnormal brain development. We also use MR imaging to study the factors that confer risk or resilience to injury after pregnancy related complications, for instance premature birth, poor fetal growth or infection in the womb. Finally, we examine the relationship between quantitative MR features and long-term functional outcome — how well children go on to learn and develop.

To this end, at the Simpson Centre for Reproductive Health at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh we study a cohort of preterm infants who are all born under 32 weeks. We will follow them throughout their childhood and adolescence to determine any cognitive impairment such as learning and behavioural difficulties.

Email: james.boardman@ed.ac.uk

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