Parents recruited for study of infants’ brain function

Joondalup Health Campus exterior illuminated with red lights for 2019 Telethon.
Joondalup Health Campus exterior illuminated with red lights for 2019 Telethon.

PARENTS of 3000 Perth newborns will be asked to film their resting infants as part of a study to detect brain impairment in the first weeks of life.

State Government research funding will help Child and Adolescent Health Service paediatrician Jane Valentine discover whether patterns of movement in early infancy could help predict brain function.

Dr Valentine is heading up the project in which parents will film their infant’s movement patterns in two three-minute recordings, taken at two and 12 weeks of age.

Any baby found to have an abnormal pattern of movement at 12 weeks will be referred for further investigation and follow-up at the Perth Children’s Hospital’s early intervention clinic.

Participants will be recruited from the 10-year Origins Project, a collaboration between Joondalup Health Campus and Telethon Kids Institute that examines how early life exposures affect a child’s growth, development and health.

The project received funding through the WA Child Research Fund program run by the Department of Health and Channel 7 Telethon Trust, and from the Perth Children’s Hospital Foundation.

Ramsay Health Care’s Joondalup Health Campus was one of 20 buildings in WA that lit up red last month for Telethon, which raised more than $42 million including $1.3 million from the Paul Ramsay Foundation.

“The hospital is a proud Telethon beneficiary, in 2016 opening the Telethon Children’s Ward and in 2017 receiving funding for The Origins Project,” JHC chief executive Kempton Cowan said.

Co-lead investigator and head of paediatrics Desiree Silva said the study aimed to reduce the rising epidemic of non-communicable diseases by providing a healthy start to life.

“We are creating comprehensive data and biobanks for 10,000 families over a decade, by collecting detailed information from pregnant women, their partners and babies for the first five years of the baby’s life,” she said.

“The project is using new science and technologies to analyse how a child’s early environment and parents’ physical health and genetics influence the risk of a wide range of conditions such as asthma, eczema, allergies, diabetes, obesity and autism.”

Since launching in 2017, more than 2500 local families have been recruited for the Origins Project with 1500 babies born.

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