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Prize for best PhD thesis 2014

 (c) Elke Griesmaier
Elke Griesmaier was awarded a prize for the best PhD thesis at Innsbruck Medical University.
Elke Griesmaier was awarded a research fellow price for the best PhD thesis 2013 at Innsbruck Medical University. This price offers her the opportunity to continue her work in the field of neonatal neuroscience.
Elke Griesmaier finished her PhD studies in summer 2013 at Innsbruck Medical University, Curriculum Neuroscience. The title of her thesis was "Evaluation of Amplitude-Integrated Electroencephalogram for Monitoring the Preterm Brain".

The first year of life is beyond question the most dynamic phase of postnatal brain development. Imaging studies have contributed valuable information to the analysis of postnatal brain development and to a better understanding of underlying pathologies of brain injury and its effect on subsequent neurodevelopmental outcome of prematurely born infants. For more than 30 years, the amplitude-integrated electroencephalogram (aEEG) has been used to continuously monitor electrocortical activity. In recent years aEEG has been extensively studied in term and preterm neonates. Continuous monitoring of electrocortical activity allows close evaluation of brain function, ongoing analysis of maturational processes and developmental plasticity. In preterm infants brain activity, recorded early within the first hours and days after birth, serves as the closest estimate of intrauterine electrocortical function and its investigation has contributed to a better understanding of developmental brain injury. A series of studies have evaluated the potential of aEEG as a biomarker for brain damage and as a predictor of neurodevelopmental outcome in preterm infants. The advantages of aEEG over other diagnostic tools (diverse blood-based biomarkers, cerebral ultrasonography, magnetic resonance imaging, et cetera) appear to be manifold, which is why aEEG monitors are now widely used in the neonatal intensive care unit. However, after implementation of a new method in  the clinical setting, it is of major importance to evaluate the acceptance of this method by the staff involved in the care of preterm infants and the validity of the results obtained. Furthermore, if aEEG is ultimately to be established for the purpose of monitoring brain injury and predicting outcome in preterm infants, we need to agree on common definitions, relevant parameters of aEEG signals and in the long-term to develop a standardized reporting strategy that can be used by every center for every preterm infant. The central aim of this thesis was after establishing the use of aEEG in  preterm infants at the neonatal intensive care unit in Innsbruck, I) to evaluate its use with regard to practicability and feasibility and II) to systematically characterize aEEG signals in preterm infants. Using this approach, we hope that by adding aEEG technology to our routine panel of monitoring instruments, we will be able to better assess the neurological condition of preterm infants and the risk for brain injury in preterm infants as soon as they are admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit.

The thesis is based on two original papers that are published in peer-review journals:
I. Griesmaier E et al. Need for quality control for aEEG monitoring of the preterm infant: a 2-year experience.
Acta Paediatrica 2011 Aug; 100(8):1079-83. 44
II. Griesmaier E et al. Systematic characterization of amplitude-integrated EEG signals for monitoring the preterm brain.
Pediatric Research 2013 Feb;73(2):226-35.
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