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Formal Study Name

Effects of Placental Transfusion on Early Brain Development

Primary Principal Investigator

Debra Erickson Owens

Additional Principal Investigator

Judith Mercer

Study Information

The Infant Brain Study

Is there a difference in brain growth depending on the timing of the umbilical cord clamping at birth? Through the Infant Brain Study, researchers from the University of Rhode Island, Brown University and Women & Infants Hospital will examine brain development during the first two years of life in babies who have immediate umbilical cord clamping compared to those who have delayed clamping.

About Umbilical Cord Clamping

At birth, the doctor or midwife clamps and cuts the baby’s umbilical cord immediately, or they can delay a few minutes before clamping. Immediate clamping is the most common practice in the United States. We do not know if babies who receive more blood cells and iron from delayed umbilical cord clamping have different brain development than babies who have their umbilical cord cut immediately.

Study Details

If you would like to participate in the Infant Brain Study, we will attend the birth of your baby and ask your doctor or midwife to either cut the umbilical cord right away or wait a few minutes. Waiting to cut the umbilical cord is safe. You will be asked to participate in the study until your baby is two years old.

At birth – We will take a sample of blood from the umbilical cord and a small sample of blood from the baby at two days of age.

This is a randomized study. A research assistant will be assigned to be at your baby’s birth. Just before the birth, a research assistant will open a card. The card will tell the doctor or midwife to either clamp the cord right away or to wait 5 minutes after your baby is born. The baby will be placed on your chest (skin to skin), dried, kept warm, and watched closely.

At four, 12 and 24 months – Your baby will have an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) of the brain plus other tests to follow your baby’s development. A small blood sample will be collected from your baby at your pediatrician's office at four and 12 months.

Contact Information

Pediatric Research
90 Plain Street
Providence, RI 02903

Eligibility Criteria

18 years or older
At least 30 weeks pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy
Planning to breastfeed
Delivering your baby at Women & Infants Hospital


Participants in the study will be reimbursed for their time and travel. Mothers will receive a copy of their baby’s MRI pictures and a report of their baby’s developmental testing.

Meet the Team

This innovative and exciting study is a collaborative effort between three researchers from Brown University, the University of Rhode Island, and Women & Infants Hospital.

Drs. Judith Mercer and Debra Erickson-Owens, both professors from the University of Rhode Island, have been studying the issue of delayed cord clamping in preterm infants at Women & Infants Hospital for more than a decade.

In 2011, Dr. Sean Deoni from Brown University’s Advanced Baby Imaging Lab spoke at a local research meeting about the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in monitoring a baby’s brain growth. Immediately, Drs. Mercer and Erickson-Owens knew that the state-of-the-art technique of using MRI to measure early baby brain development was just what was needed to advance the study of cord clamping in full-term infants.

Today, our research team consists of experts in the fields of obstetrics, pediatrics, MRI imaging, and infant development from the Brown University, the University of Rhode Island, and Women & Infants Hospital.


This study is made possible by the generous funding from the National Institutes of Health/Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

More Information/FAQ

Facts About Infant MRI

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for the Infant Brain Study is provided at Brown University’s Advanced Baby Imaging Lab.

MRI is safe and painless. It does not use x-rays. Rather, it uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves – similar to those of an FM radio – to make images of the brain. Studies have shown that there are no negative effects from MRI. Our study meets all FDA safety requirements.

The noise from the MRI is no louder than casual talk. Babies undergoing an MRI through the Infant Brain Study will have noise canceling headphones placed on them. The MRI is done during natural sleep with no sedation and most babies sleep right through the scan./

Your baby will never be alone, you may stay with him/her at all times or watch from the control room. Your baby will also be watched at all times by a pediatric nurse or MRI-certified research assistant who will stay with your baby throughout the scan.

Women & Infants

Area of Study

Recruitment Status