Understanding the relationship between apnoeas and brain function in premature infants

Year of award: 2018


  • Dr Caroline Hartley

    University of Oxford

Project summary

One in every 10 babies are born prematurely, which can have a long-term impact on brain function and cognitive ability. However, what drives these long-term effects is poorly understood. Premature infants often experience cessation of breathing, known as apnoea, which can result in decreased oxygen supply to the brain. It is unclear how this affects brain function.

I want to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying the interaction between brain activity and apnoea in premature infants. I will examine whether brain activity is altered during apnoeas, and identify physiological markers that could predict apnoeas which would enable early interventions. Studying infants longitudinally, I will investigate whether frequent apnoeas alter the trajectory of brain development, and determine how this relates to cognitive ability at the age of two.

My research will enhance our understanding of apnoeas and the long-term effects of premature birth, ultimately improving outcomes for prematurely-born children.