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Brain Res. 2001 Nov 2;917(2):167-73.

Detection of fetal auditory evoked responses by means of magnetoencephalography.

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  • 1Istituto di Elettronica dello Stato Solido, C.N.R., Roma, Italy.


MagnetoEncephaloGraphy (MEG) is proposed as a non-invasive technique to detect the physiological activity of fetal brain, due to its ability to record brain activity without direct contact with the head and the transparency of magnetic signals in passing through extracerebral fetal layers and the mother's abdomen. Healthy women with uncomplicated pregnancies and fetuses in breech presentation were examined; gestational ages at time of study ranged between 36 and 40 weeks. In order to evaluate fetal well-being, ultrasound and cardiotocographic data were assessed a few days before and after MEG recording sessions. The participating women were placed in a semi-reclining position in a magnetically shielded room; here the presentation of the fetus and precise region of the mother's abdomen corresponding to the fetal head were determined by ultrasound investigation in order to place the MEG detecting system as near as possible to the fetal brain. MEG recordings were performed by means of a 28-channel neuromagnetic system. Every MEG recording session was performed during the acoustic stimulation of fetuses, in order to detect the cerebral events evoked by peripheral stimuli. The auditory stimuli were delivered from a plastic tube placed on mother's abdomen, near the fetal head, and consisted of a 300 ms 103 dB pure tone at 500 and 1000 Hz, presented at a 0.4 c/s repetition rate. In six cases following accurate digital subtraction of maternal and fetal electrocardiographic (EKG) signals we remained with a stimulus-related response peaking at about 250 ms; this was considered to originate from the fetal brain. In favour of this in three cases a clear dipolar distribution was evident at the peak of brain response centered on the fetal head and consistent with a brain generator. Despite several technical problems requiring solution before a possible routine clinical application, MEG has been found to be suitable for the non-invasive exploration of the fetal brain.

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