Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience (Oct 2021)

Is fetal MRI ready for neuroimaging prime time? An examination of progress and remaining areas for development

  • Vidya Rajagopalan,
  • Sean Deoni,
  • Ashok Panigrahy,
  • Moriah E. Thomason

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 51
p. 100999


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A major challenge in designing large-scale, multi-site studies is developing a core, scalable protocol that retains the innovation of scientific advances while also lending itself to the variability in experience and resources across sites. In the development of a common Healthy Brain and Child Development (HBCD) protocol, one of the chief questions is “is fetal MRI ready for prime-time?” While there is agreement about the value of prenatal data obtained non-invasively through MRI, questions about practicality abound. There has been rapid progress over the past years in fetal and placental MRI methodology but there is uncertainty about whether the gains afforded outweigh the challenges in supporting fetal MRI protocols at scale. Here, we will define challenges inherent in building a common protocol across sites with variable expertise and will propose a tentative framework for evaluation of design decisions. We will compare and contrast various design considerations for both normative and high-risk populations, in the setting of the post-COVID era. We will conclude with articulation of the benefits of overcoming these challenges and would lend to the primary questions articulated in the HBCD initiative.