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BACKGROUND: Neurological impairment is a common sequelae of perinatal brain injury. Plasticity of the developing brain is due to a rich substrate of developing neurones, synaptic elements and extracellular matrix. Interventions supporting this inherent capacity for plasticity may improve the developmental outcome of infants following brain injury. Nutritional supplementation with combination docosahexaenoic acid, uridine and choline has been shown to increase synaptic elements, dendritic density and neurotransmitter release in rodents, improving performance on cognitive tests. It remains elusive whether such specific 'neurotrophic' supplementation enhances brain plasticity and repair after perinatal brain injury. METHODS/DESIGN: This is a two year double-blind, randomised placebo controlled study with two cohorts to investigate whether nutritional intervention with a neurotrophic dietary supplement improves growth and neurodevelopmental outcomes in neonates at significant risk of neurological impairment (the D1 cohort), and infants with suspected or confirmed cerebral palsy (the D2 cohort). 120 children will be randomised to receive dietetic and nutritional intervention, and either active supplement or placebo. Eligible D1 neonates are those born <30(+6) weeks gestation with weight <9(th) centile, ≤ 30(+6) weeks gestation and Grade II, III or IV Intra-Ventricular Haemorrhage or periventricular white matter injury, or those born at 31-40(+28) weeks gestation, with Sarnat grade I or II or III Hypoxic Ischaemic Encephalopathy or neuroimaging changes compatible with perinatal brain injury. Eligible D2 infants are those aged 1-18 months with a suspected or confirmed clinical diagnosis of cerebral palsy. The primary outcome measure is composite cognitive score on the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development III at 24 months. Secondary outcomes include visuobehavioural and visual neurophysiological assessments, and growth parameters including weight, height, and head circumference. DISCUSSION: This is the first study to supplement neonates and infants with perinatal brain injury with the combination of factors required for healthy brain development, throughout the period of maximal brain growth. A further study strength is the comprehensive range of outcome measures employed. If beneficial, supplementation with brain phosphatide precursors could improve the quality of life of thousands of children with perinatal brain injury. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Current Controlled trials: ISRCTN39264076 (registration assigned 09/11/2012), ISRCTN15239951 (registration assigned 23/04/2010).

Original publication




Journal article


BMC Pediatr

Publication Date





Birth Injuries, Brain Damage, Chronic, Cerebral Palsy, Choline, Docosahexaenoic Acids, Double-Blind Method, Female, Humans, Infant, Infant, Newborn, Infant, Premature, Male, Neuronal Plasticity, Nootropic Agents, Risk Factors, Uridine, Vision, Ocular