Predicting Early Development in Moderate to Late Preterm Babies

Project Code: 10476072

Faculty: Liggins Institute

Department: Liggins Institute

Main Supervisor: Dist Prof Jane Harding

Application open date: 25 May 2021

Application deadline: 31 Dec 2021

Enrolment information: NZ Citizens, NZ Permanent Residents, International


Over 80% of preterm babies are born between 32 and 36 weeks gestation: moderate-late preterm.  These babies are 36% more likely to have disabilities, 50% more likely to have special educational needs, and six times more likely to have cerebral palsy than babies born at term, but the reasons for these adverse outcomes are not known.

Moderate-late preterm babies do not have routine brain scanning after birth, and do not usually have any follow-up once they go home.  However, we have found that many have changes on brain MRI soon after birth, although these have often disappeared by term-equivalent age.  The causes, incidence and significance of these changes are not known.

The aim of this project is to find out whether these changes on brain MRI may be early markers of later adverse outcomes.  If so, this would represent a breakthrough in understanding the long-term problems that moderate-late preterm babies face, and provide opportunities for early intervention to reduce later disability.

What we are looking for in a successful applicant

Candidates must meet the entry criteria for a masters or doctoral degree at the University of Auckland.


In moderate-late preterm babies:

1. Determine the incidence, size and distribution of brain changes on MRI
2. Investigate possible causes before and after birth
3. Assess development at 3 months of age
4. Assess outcomes, including cerebral palsy, at 2 years
5. Relate outcomes to MRI changes and 3 month assessments

Other information

Candidates may have an interest in and experience with MRI, mothers, babies or young children, including nurses, doctors, midwives, psychologists, physiotherapists, developmental therapists and MRI technicians.

Scholarships available for suitably qualified candidates.

Related opportunities