The neonatal rabbit brain shows prolonged postnatal development both structurally and physiologically. We use noninvasive near-IR frequency-domain optical spectroscopy (NIRS) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to follow early developmental changes in cerebral oxygenation and anatomy, respectively. Four groups of animals are measured: NIRS in normals, MRI in normals, and both NIRS and MRI with hypoxia-ischemia (HI) (diffusion MRI staging). NIRS and/or MRI are performed from P3 (postnatal day=P) up to P76. NIRS is performed on awake animals with a frequency-domain tissue photometer. Absolute values of oxyhemoglobin concentration ([HbO2]), deoxyhemoglobin concentration ([HbR]), total hemoglobin concentration (HbT), and hemoglobin saturation (StO2) are calculated. The brains of all animals appeared to be maturing as shown in the diffusion tensor MRI. Mean optical coefficients (reduced scattering) remained unchanged in all animals throughout. StO2 increased in all animals (40% at P9 to 65% at P43) and there are no differences between normal, HI controls, and HI brains. The measured increase in StO2 is in agreement with the reported increase in blood flow during the first 2 months of life in rabbits. HbT, which reflects blood volume, peaked at postnatal day P17, as expected since the capillary density increases up to P17 when the microvasculature matures.
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