Artificial intelligence, computation, and new measurement techniques to be included in infant brain research
Professor Sampsa Vanhatalo’s multidisciplinary research group studies the early functional development of the brain at the Baby Brain Activity (BABA) Center. How do adverse experiences in infancy lead to neurodevelopmental disorders and how do treatments affect brain development?
Research carried out at BABA is already being utilised in the development of devices in several Finnish and international medical companies.
The collaboration project between various universities, which was launched in 2018, is already producing smart clothing for babies.
– We develop smart clothing, such as disposable EEG caps, pants for sleep monitoring and smart jumpsuits which are suitable for the diagnostics and treatment of infants. The Academy of Finland, the Foundation for Pediatric Research and the Finnish Brain Foundation support the project, Sampsa Vanhatalo says.
BABA is also regularly referred to as an international centre for the functional study of the brain. BABA researchers are involved in many international multicentre projects in Europe, the United States and Australia.
Sampsa Vanhatalo sought to accelerate the establishment of the BABA Center in Australia, Brisbane, Perinatal Research Center in University of Queensland. After returning to Finland, he established the BABA Center in connection with the Pediatric Research Center in 2013. It brings together the groups studying infant brain activity at the Helsinki University Hospital and at Helsinki University.
– We have developed methods to measure infant electroencephalography (EEG) as well as new types of mathematical analysis methods. Thanks to this, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit can perform multichannel measurements of infant brains, or mathematically assess the dialogue between brain areas in newborn babies.
The research group has also developed methods for the automatic analyses of the EEG signal which are based on machine learning. New methods are already able to identify epileptic seizures from the EEG signal and to assess the functional maturity of the child’s cerebral cortex (Functional Brain Age).
Eye tracking camera to monitor development
Vanhatalo’s research group has started the first hospital -based infant eye tracking studies to assess cognitive development in infants.
The group wants to have an impact on clinical treatment practices by inventing new types of research methods and solutions.
– One of them is a method based on artificial intelligence to assess infant electroencephalography, in particular to monitor recovery from brain injury. It can be integrated into the Intensive Care Unit’s monitoring devices, or it may be used for studying new forms of medication and treatment.
The Vanhatalo research group is currently developing a cognitive test system for infants and preschool-age children which is based on eye tracking camera. It would also be suitable for extensive use outside of hospital settings.
Approximately 30 researchers and four research nurses are involved in BABA center research. The group members are physicians from various fields, engineers, physicians, mathematicians and psychologists and students in these fields.
Helsinki University Hospital Children and Adolescentssampsa.vanhatalo(a)helsinki.fi