Project Magnetic Resonance for
GABA In Preterm Brain and Cerebellum
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Project Magnetic Resonance for GABA In Preterm Brain and Cerebellum

In vivo quantification of gamma-aminobutyric acid in the developing brain

Each year, 500,000 U.S. infants are born premature, or younger than 37 weeks gestation. Premature birth is a growing public health concern, largely due to these infants’ heightened risk for experiencing brain injury and developing lifelong complications. The neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is pivotal to fetal and newborn brain development and influences the evolution of brain injury and repair following preterm birth. Project MAGIC uses novel magnetic resonance spectroscopy to measure GABA concentrations in the developing brains of small preterm infants.

Contact us to join the MAGIC study
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Project MAGIC, a prospective pilot cohort study of 100 infants born very preterm, seeks to explore how brain development is affected by preterm birth and how different clinical events influence brain injury. With advanced tools of brain monitoring we want to understand the optimal environment for the baby’s brain to develop outside the mother’s womb.

  • A more complete understanding of the diagnostic and prognostic importance of GABA could help direct treatment strategies for vulnerable preterm infants at risk of brain injury


Who can participate
Premature infants:

• Of both sexes

• Of all ethnic backgrounds

• Aged ≤35 gestational weeks and 6 days at birth
Who may not participate
Premature Infants:

• With known brain malformation, dysmorphic features or congenital anomalies that suggest a genetic syndrome, metabolic disorder, chromosomal abnormality or congenital infection

• With dysgenetic or major destructive brain lesions detected by cranial ultrasound

• With CNS infection
What should I expect?
Enrolled infants will undergo standardized neurological and behavioral assessments at key times during their lives, and two MRI imaging studies:

• The first MRI will occur once the newborn is clinically stable after birth (before 37 weeks post menstrual age)

• The follow-up MRI will occur between 37 to 42 weeks post menstrual age
Will I be paid?
Study participants will receive $50 compensation at each outpatient visit. All participants will receive a parking voucher for the garage at Children’s National Hospital at each outpatient study visit.


Basu SK, Pradhan S, Jacobs MB, Said M, Kapse K, Murnick J, Whitehead M, Chang T, du Plessis A, Limperopoulos C.
Age and sex influences gamma-aminobutyric acid concentrations in the developing brain of very premature infants.
Scientific Reports. 2020;10(1):10549. Published 2020 Jun 29. doi:10.1038/s41598-020-67188-y https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32601466/