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Session Overview
Keynote III:: "The influence of preterm birth and early environment on structural and functional brain development "
Tuesday, 22/Nov/2022:
9:00am - 10:00am

by Prof. Dr. Petra Hüppi

Location: Auditorium Roux

Session Abstract


Preterm birth is one of the leading causes for neurodevelopmental delay in surviving infants, and has been associated with a wide range of behavioural and cognitive problems from childhood to adult life. Studies by us and others have helped to uncover the underlying neural mechanisms of these difficulties, which is paramount to identify potential avenues for interventions that will improve the preterm population’s clinical outcome. MR imaging studies have allowed to identify altered global brain tissue growth rates in preterm infants and have identified microstructurally altered brain white matter networks in the associative and limbic cortico-basal ganglia-thalamocortical circuits, involving the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the orbitofrontal cortex and the amygdala (Cismaru et al., 2016; Gui et al., 2019; Sa de Almeida et al., 2021). From our more recent cohort of preterm newborns we have evidence for altered salience (anterior insula to anterior cingulate) network functionality already in the newborn period, a network that allows to adapt behavior according to the predictive value of stimuli, positive (reward) or negative (punishment)(Lordier, Meskaldji, et al., 2019). Predictive relations between stimuli and outcome are learned through experience and preterm infants clearly have very different early life experiences with extreme situations of non-predictability. These findings raise the question of how to induce resilience through more predictable stimuli in the newborn period. Our recent research has engaged in introducing interventions, in the newborn period by maternal voice and music (Adam-Darque et al., 2020; Lordier, Loukas, et al., 2019; Loukas et al., 2021). The combination of fMRI and high density EEG are shown to be valid methods to study early functional competence of the developing brain.



Petra Hüppi studied medicine and specialised in paediatrics, neonatology and developmental paediatrics in Bern. Interested in the development of the newborn brain, she discovered in 1988 the potential of a new technology: magnetic resonance imaging. She successfully applied it to her research, first during her training in paediatrics and then during a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School. She thus became a pioneer in neonatal brain imaging. In 1998, she returned to Switzerland, to the HUG, to head the Division of development and growth and, since its opening in 2018, the Child Development Centre where, with her team, she provides multidisciplinary and specialised care for children with developmental disorders.     

Her research on  human brain development has been supported by the SNSF and the European Research Council for 20 years. She is an elected member of the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences and has received several awards - amon which the Leenaards Prize in 2007 and the Cloëtta Prize for Medicine in Switzerland in 2011. She has also been a member of the National Research Council since 2012 and of the SNSF Career Commission. Since 2019, she has been an elected member of the Administrative Council of the University of Zurich. She is also co-founder of the PrimEnfance Foundation in Geneva, which aims to promote the implementation of innovative scientific projects in the field of childhood diseases.

Appointed full professor in the Department of Paediatrics of the Faculty of Medicine in 2003, she has been Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Medicine since July 2019 in charge of post graduate and continuing education and inter-institutional projects, in particular the Biotech Campus.

No contributions were assigned to this session.

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