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Date of Award


Document Type

Restricted Thesis: Campus only access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Cindy Bukach


Infants routinely undergo prolonged sedation with opioids and benzodiazepines for proper clinical management, as part of the standard of care. Recent evidence suggests that prolonged sedation may have negative effects on infant brain development. We hypothesized that prolonged sedation with opioids and benzodiazepines is associated with (1) decreased brain volume and (2) increased volume of cerebrospinal fluid in full-term patients as per brain MRI scans in comparison to healthy controls. Both full-term patients (N=7) and otherwise healthy controls (N=5) between 1 and 11 months underwent non-sedated 3T magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as per IRB approval at Boston Children’s Hospital. Total intracranial, brain, and cerebrospinal fluid volumes were estimated using Morphologically Adaptive Neonatal Tissue Segmentation (MANTiS) tool. Cerebrospinal fluid volume as a % of intracranial volume was higher in the patient (18% ± 3%) than the control group (14% ± 3%), with marginal significance (p = .07). Brain volume as a % of intracranial volume was lower in the patient group (81% ± 5%) than the control group (85% ± 3%) with marginal significance (p = 0.06). Our preliminary data show a trend of higher CSF volume and lower brain volume across age groups following prolonged sedation with opioid and benzodiazepines that is marginally significant. Future studies should investigate if patients exposed to prolonged sedation associated with drug dependence have altered brain volumes with concern for potential developmental effects.