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Fetal Neuroimaging

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Development of Fetal Brain and Placenta

The structural and functional development of the fetal brain is closely associated with fetal circulation environment. The representative cases of abnormalities in fetal circulation which is well known to significantly disrupt the fetal brain development include the congenital heart disease (CHD) and intrauterine fetal growth restriction (IUGR) (Andescavage et al. 2015 Seminars in Perinatology). Our group has demonstrated that the CHD fetuses exhibited significantly impaired volumetric and metabolic development of the brain in third trimester (Limperopoulos et al. 2010 Circulation). However, the effects of CHD on functional development of the fetal brain and the underlying mechanism have not been well understood and remain unclear. In particular, the role of placental insufficiency in CHD-related brain injury has not been well understood. 

A functional MR image of fetal brain and placenta

Our challenge is to explore the mechanism underlying placenta-based brain injuries using noninvasive imaging tools including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and Doppler ultrasonography, and to find out the reliable biomarkers for early diagnoses of those disorders. As a part of this research, we have examined the effects of maternal hyperoxia on the hemodynamic responses of the placenta and fetal brain by using blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) fMRI. Recently, we also have quantified the structural and functional development of the placenta using the diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI). Our long-term goal is to develop not only robust tools for data processing and analyses (including fetal motion correction) dedicated to the moving fetus, but also diagnostic methods for fetal brain impairment for pediatric applications.


  1. Yao Wu, Sonia Dahdouh, Marine Bouyssi-Kobar, Manoj Kumar, Josepheen Cruz, Wonsang You, Catherine Limperopoulos, "Improved Infant MRI Brain Extraction utilizing Clustering and Morphological Approaches," International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (ISMRM), April 2017.
  2. Antonio R. Porras, Gemma Piella, Wonsang You, Catherine Limperopoulos, Marius G. Linguraru, "Quantification of oxygen changes in the placenta from BOLD MR image sequences,"  Proc. SPIE, Medical Imaging 2017: Computer-Aided Diagnosis, 1013406 (March 3, 2017) .
  3. Wonsang You, Nickie Andescavage, Zungho Zun, Catherine Limperopoulos, "Semi-automatic segmentation of the placenta into fetal and maternal compartments using intravoxel incoherent motion MRI," Proc. SPIE, Medical Imaging 2017: Biomedical Applications in Molecular, Structural, and Functional Imaging, 1013726 (March 13, 2017).
  4. Wonsang You, Iordanis E. Evangelou, Zungho Zun, Nickie Andescavage, Catherine Limperopoulos, "Robust preprocessing for stimulus-based functional MRI of the moving fetus", Journal of Medical Imaging 3(2), 026001 (Apr 05, 2016).
  5. W. You, M. Donofrio, D. Wessel, Z. Zun, J. De Asis-Cruz, G. Vezina, D. Bulas, R. Jonas, A. du Plessis, and C. Limperopoulos, "Abstract 19532: Maternal Hyperoxia Increases Cerebral Oxygenation in Fetuses With Complex Congenital Heart Disease: A Functional MRI Study," Circulation, vol. 132, no. Suppl 3, pp. A19532–A19532, Nov. 2015.
  6. Wonsang You, Shuo-Tse Hsu, Iordanis Evangelou, Mary Donofrio, Nickie Andescavage, Gilbert Vezina, Dorothy Bulas, Adre J. DuPlessis, Catherine Limperopoulos, "Altered fetal brain-placenta hemodynamic interaction in fetuses with complex congenital heart disease: A functional MRI study," Prenatal Diagnosis 2015, 35(Suppl. 1): 1–26.
  7. Wonsang You, Ahmed Serag, Iordanis E. Evangelou, Nickie Andescavage, Catherine Limperopoulos, "Robust motion correction and outlier rejection of in vivo functional MR images of the fetal brain and placenta during maternal hyperoxia," Proc. SPIE 9417, Medical Imaging 2015: Biomedical Applications in Molecular, Structural, and Functional Imaging, 94170O (March 17, 2015).
  8. Wonsang You, Iordanis Evangelou, Nickie Andescavage, Catherine Limperopoulos, "Outlier rejection, data imputation and denoising in stimulus-based fMRI of the moving fetus," IEEE EMBS Brain Grand Challenges Conference 2015.
  9. Wonsang You, Ahmed Serag, Iordanis Evangelou, Nickie Andescavage, Adre du Plessis, Catherine Limperopoulos , "Functional in vivo fetal brain and placental changes during maternal hyperoxia: a feasibility study," CRI Research and Education Week 2014, At Washington, D.C.

Invited Talks and Tutorials

  1. Non-invasive MR imaging of in vivo placental oxygenation (Developing brain research program seminar, Children’s National Health System, Washington, D.C., June 21, 2017)
  2. Altered fetal brain-placenta hemodynamic interaction in fetuses with complex congenital heart disease: a functional MRI study (Plenary Session - Top Young Investigator Presentations, The ISPD 19th International Conference on Prenatal Diagnosis and Therapy, Washington, D.C., July 14, 2017)



  • Children's National Medical Center - Dr. Wonsang You, Dr. Feng Xu, Dr. Sonia Dahdouh, Dr. Mary Donofrio, Dr. Nickie Andescavage, Dr. Adre J. DuPlessis, Dr. Catherine Limperopoulos