You are here

Victorian Infant Brain Studies (VIBeS)

The broad objective of the VIBeS group is to improve the long-term quality of life for children born preterm. The group conducts some of the world’s largest longitudinal observational and neuroimaging cohort studies with preterm children, which enables them to better understand the factors contributing to developmental problems observed in a high proportion of these children. Based on information from its observational cohort studies, the team then develops early intervention programs that aim to prevent or minimise developmental problems in preterm children. 

Specifically, the group aims to understand the processes that cause brain injury and the factors that disrupt normal brain development in preterm children. Researchers are also trying to determine how early brain injury impacts on subsequent brain development in preterm children, identify brain abnormalities and environmental factors associated with developmental problems in preterm children, and develop and trial interventions to improve the outcome for preterm children.

VIBeS is a large multi-disciplinary group with experts in the fields of neonatology and general paediatrics, neuroscience, neuropsychology and developmental psychology, physiotherapy, nursing, occupational therapy and speech pathology. The group is divided into five specialist teams including neuroimaging, motor development, neurology, neuropsychology, and mental health and parenting.

Upcoming Event

NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Newborn Medicine Symposium

Join us for a special interactive symposium on the challenges and opportunities for improving outcomes for children born preterm.

Early Assessment and Intervention to Improve Long-Term Neurodevelopment for High-risk Children

Join us for a special interactive symposium on the challenges and opportunities for improving outcomes for children born preterm. An expert multi-disciplinary team of clinicians and researchers will discuss how and when we can intervene to promote preterm children’s development from the nursery to the classroom. Topics include early neurobehavioural assessment, supporting parents of preterm babies and children, identifying autism spectrum disorders, and cognitive training.

Wednesday November 25, 2015
8am – 12pm
Ella Latham Theatre, The Royal Children's Hospital, Parkville

Group Leaders: 
Group Members: 
Prof Lex Doyle
Role: 
Deputy Group Leader
Debbie Cations
Role: 
Office Manager
Merilyn Bear
Role: 
Nurse co-ordinator
Kate Callanan
Role: 
Nurse co-ordinator
Marion McDonald
Role: 
Nurse co-ordinator
Emma McInnes
Role: 
Nurse co-ordinator
Brenda Argus
Role: 
Recruitment nurse
Bernice Mills
Role: 
Recruitment nurse
Dr Megan Spencer-Smith
Role: 
Honorary Senior Research Fellow
Dr Abbey Eeles
Role: 
Research Officer
Dr Nisha Brown
Role: 
Research Officer
Dr Rosemarie Boland
Role: 
Research Officer
Dr Bonnie Alexander
Role: 
Research Officer
Jian Chen
Role: 
Research Assistant
Claire Kelly
Role: 
Research Assistant
Leona Pascoe
Role: 
PhD student / Research Assistant
Leesa Allinson
Role: 
PhD student / Research Assistant
Cody Potter
Role: 
PhD student / Research Assistant
Joy Olsen
Role: 
PhD student / Research Assistant
Lillian Gabra Fam
Role: 
PhD student / Research Assistant
Elisha Josev
Role: 
PhD student / Research Assistant
Katherine Sanchez
Role: 
PhD student
Sacha Stokes
Role: 
PhD student / Research Assistant
Wai Yen Loh
Role: 
PhD student / Research Assistant
Saga Arthursson
Role: 
PhD student
Annalise Avitabile
Role: 
Research Assistant
Sarah-Pia Carron
Role: 
Research Assistant
Dr Reshma Silas
Role: 
Paediatrician
Dr Rachel Madhwan
Role: 
Paediatrician
Dr Noni Davis
Role: 
Paediatrician
Dr Julianne Duff
Role: 
Paediatrician
Dr Jennifer Walsh
Role: 
Paediatrician

Cognitive dysfunction and brain development in 13-year-old very preterm children - VIBeS Longitudinal Cohort Study
The VIBeS cohort is the world’s largest prospective longitudinal neuroimaging and neurodevelopmental study of very preterm and term children. This cohort has undergone brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at term equivalent age and seven years old, and neurodevelopmental assessments at two, five and seven years of age. 

The current study involves a 13-year follow-up of the VIBeS cohort and is seeking to better understand how cognitive skills develop in preterm children, and how brain injury and brain development underpin cognitive impairments. It aims to determine if cognitive impairments in preterm children worsen or improve with age, providing essential knowledge for diagnosis and management. It is also trying to determine whether neonatal MRI scans can predict cognitive deficits in preterm 13-year-olds, enhancing early detection and intervention for those at high risk. Finally, the study aims to describe brain atypicalities in preterm 13-year-olds and their association with cognitive deficits to aid our understanding of prematurity-related neuroplasticity.

Working memory training for extremely preterm children - IMPRINT trial
Working memory is considered a primary area of concern for children born very preterm. Cogmed is a cognitive training intervention purported to enhance working memory and attention, but it is still unclear whether the benefits of this intervention are sustained long-term or if it is effective with very preterm children. The IMPRINT trial is a randomised controlled trial to assess the effectiveness of Cogmed to improve academic functioning two years post intervention in a large regional cohort of extremely preterm children compared with a placebo training program. Secondary objectives of this study are to investigate training-induced neuroplasticity associated with Cogmed training two weeks following the completion of the program using MRI, and to compare working memory capacity and attention at two weeks, and one and two years post-intervention between the intervention and placebo groups.

Long-term outcomes of a preventive care intervention for preterm infants and their families – VIBeS Plus trial
The VIBeS Plus intervention is a preventive care program for very preterm infants and their families. The program involved home visits over the first year of life post-hospital discharge by a team of psychologists and physiotherapists dealing with settling, developmental, attachment and adjustment issues. Researchers conducted a randomised controlled trial of this program and follow-up assessments at two and four years of age revealed children in the intervention group were exhibiting fewer behavioural problems and parents were exhibiting better mental health than those families in the standard care control group. VIBeS is currently conducting a seven year follow-up of the families in this trial to assess the long-term effects of this preventive care program. Researchers are predicting that the early benefits of the VIBeS Plus intervention will persist as well as generalise to other domains such as cognitive functioning and academic achievement.

Brain development and short-term outcomes of children born late preterm – LaPrem cohort
The LaPrem study is an observational cohort study focusing on brain development and developmental outcomes of children born between 32 and 36 completed weeks’ of pregnancy (known as moderate and late preterm). Moderate and late preterm births form more than 80 per cent of all preterm births, and yet little is known about how being born during this gestation affects brain development. This study has recruited 200 children born moderate or late preterm and 200 term-born controls, who underwent developmental assessments in the newborn period, brain MRI at term-equivalent age and developmental assessments at age two. The initial findings from this study have demonstrated that being born moderate to late preterm is associated with a smaller and less brain on MRI compared with those born full term. How this is related to developmental outcomes will be investigated when the information from the whole cohort becomes available at the end of 2014.

Cerebral palsy rates in Victoria declining

Neurobehavioural development in very preterm infants and psychological distress in their parents – VIBeS 2 cohort
The VIBeS 2 study is continuing on from our original VIBeS cohort by investigating early neurodevelopmental in the neonatal intensive care and special care units of infants born less than 30 weeks’ gestation and how this relates to MRI-determined brain growth or injury, perinatal factors (such as birthweight or infection), and later developmental outcomes measured using standardised assessment tools at term, one and two years’ corrected age. We have recruited 150 preterm infants and a control group of 150 healthy term-born infants have also been recruited for comparison of outcomes. This study is unique because researchers are also assessing parental (both mother and father) mental health regularly throughout the first two years of the child’s life, to understand how parenting experiences differ when a child is born early compared to term and if this has an effect on later development of the child.

Web-based preventive care intervention for preterm infants and their families – e-prem trial
E-prem is a new web-based intervention program for preterm infants and their families that VIBeS has developed. The intervention is delivered over the first year of life and is designed to promote child development and parental mental health by providing parents with skills, resources and information via a standardised yet flexible web-based program with one-on-one telephone coaching. Content is based on our own previously successful early intervention program (VIBeS Plus), which improved infant and parental outcomes at two and four years of age. The group recently completed a pilot study of the intervention, and will soon begin a randomised controlled trial to assess the clinical efficacy of e-prem compared with standard care on child cognitive development, child behaviour and parent mental health at the age of two years, corrected. Researchers will also examine the cost-effectiveness of the intervention. 

Collaborations: 
  • Professors Maria Makrides and Robert Gibson, The University of Adelaide
  • Professors Terrie Inder, Jeffrey Neil and Simon Warfield, Harvard University