Insights into fetal hypoxia could enable better understanding of brain injury in utero

Lead researcher

A/Prof Flora Wong

Main finding

Using a sheep model, we found that fetal brain activation induced by peripheral stimulation is associated with increase in brain blood flow and oxygen supply, in order to meet the increased brain oxgyen demand. However, with prolonged brain stimulation, there was reduced fetal brain blood flow and oxygenation.


The Ritchie Centre

Research group

Neonatal Brain Protection


Dr Shinji Nakamura
A/Prof David Walker

Journal and article title

Most surprising

This is the first study to explore the blood flow and oxygen response in the developing fetal brain, using brain stimulation of different durations. We found that the brain blood flow response changes depending on the durations of stimulation. This is very different to findings in the adult brain in which the brain blood flow and oxygenation always increase with stimulations.

Future implications

The result provides insight into how low oxygen level (hypoxia) may occur in the fetal brain, and potentially lead to brain injury in-utero (ie before birth).

Disease/health impact

Fetal brain oxygenation