48th Annual Conference – June 8–10 University of Tübingen
For the Symposia session “Can we Measure Consciousness in Infants and Fetuses?” Prof. Hubert Preissl presented “Tools For Investigating Fetal Brain Activity”.
Abstract of the talk:
Fetal magnetoencephalography (fMEG) is the only non-invasive method of directly measuring electromagnetic fetal brain activity in utero. This technique records magnetic fields generated by the fetal brain. Both spontaneous neural activity and event-related fields triggered by auditory and visual stimuli can be recorded with fMEG. Finding obtained from fMEG may also be complemented by fetal neuroimaging data obtained with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a separate technique that can examine fetal brain structure and hemodynamic activity.
This talk will give an overview of developmental insights gained from both techniques, with an eye toward new applications for inferring the emergence of cognition and consciousness in the perinatal period. In the first part of my talk, I will describe studies that show the developmental trajectories of auditory and visual perception during the last trimester of human gestation. Additionally, I will present data that demonstrate the generation of mismatch responses and habituation to repetitive stimuli by the fetal brain. I will also discuss how fetal behavioral states can affect these processes.
Next, in the second part of my talk, I will discuss the results of fetal neuroimaging with MRI, which demonstrates the development of functional connectivity brain networks in utero. In this context, I will explore the effects of adverse factors during gestation on fetal brain development. In conclusion, fetal brain imaging is an emerging field which, in the near, may illuminate the perinatal emergence of perception, cognition, and perhaps consciousness.