Hypoxia has long-term effects on the hippocampus, which can lead to memory and learning disabilities.
What are the consequences of oxygen deprivation on the body? For a long time, researchers thought that it killed the brain cells of premature babies. A new study, published in Journal of Neuroscience, shows that in reality, the hippocampus is the most affected organ.
Hypoxia, a risk for premature babies
There would be 15 million premature births every year on the planet. Prematurity can have different health consequences, but some are more dangerous than others: the area of the brain dedicated to breathing can be dysfunctional and the baby does not have the natural reflex to breathe. Hypoxia is precisely the lack of oxygen, and can affect both premature babies and people with chronic bronchopulmonary disease.
Hundreds of weekly hypoxia phases
According to research findings, a premature baby can experience 600 periods of hypoxia a week, lasting more or less long. In this study, they looked at the consequences they have on their encephalon through premature sheep brains. The scientists compared the consequences of hypoxia and ischemia, an insufficient blood circulation, on the development of the hippocampus. The latter is abnormal in case of hypoxia, but the brain cells do not die contrary to previous beliefs. The greater the hypoxia, the greater the developmental disorders of the hippocampus. The abnormal growth of hippocampus cells has an impact on the functioning of memory and learning.
The researchers continue their investigations and hope to develop new skincare techniques to minimize the consequences of hypoxia on the brain of premature infants.