• Chau, Vann

    Clinical Investigator, CFRI
    Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, University of British Columbia
    Neurologist, BC Women's Hospital & Health Centre
    Degrees / Designations
    Primary Area of Research
    Secondary Area(s) of Research
    604-875-2000 ext. 5948
    Lab Phone
    Mailing Address
    BC Children's Hospital
    Room K3-180, 4480 Oak Street
    Vancouver, BC V6H 3V4
    Affiliate Websites
    Research Areas
    • Brain development and brain injury in newborns
    • Advanced neuroimaging techniques
    • Neonatal seizures
    • Congenital heart disease
    • Prematurity
    • Asphyxia
    • Hypoxic-ischemic brain injury
    • Neonatal encephalopathy
    • Infection and inflammation

    Brain damage in babies is one of the most significant causes of motor and intellectual deficits in North American children, and these children are at very high risk for developmental delays. My research explores perinatal causes that may impact brain development in babies by using advanced neuroimaging techniques such as magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging and diffusion tensor imaging to look at brain functions.

    Specifically, I am interested in measuring the effect of infection and inflammation on the brain of premature babies, in evaluating the effect of asphyxia and cooling on brain development, in understanding the risks factors that are associated with brain injury in babies with congenital heart malformations as well as in the follow-up of these at-risk babies throughout their childhood. In the near future, I hope to utilize transcranial magnetic stimulation as one of the tools to assess brain dysfunction. 

    By studying these risk factors and the effects of clinical care practices on brain development, it is hoped that the identification and quantification of brain damage will be easier and will lead to improved neurological functions in babies at risk.

    Current Projects

    In collaboration with Dr. Steven Miller’s team, I am currently involved in the following research projects:

    Neonatal Encephalopathy Study: The Progression of Brain Injury in Term Newborns with  Encephalopathy
    The objective of this project is to identify methods enabling the rapid identification of term newborns with encephalopathy that have significant brain injury and to enable the accurate prediction of neurological outcome in these newborns. Our three specific aims are:

    1. To characterize the spectrum of brain abnormalities detected within 12-36 hours of life in term newborns with encephalopathy by measuring brain structure, connectivity and metabolism. 
    2. To (A) compare the MR findings on the first MRI scan at 12-36 hours to findings on the clinical MR exams at 3 days and 10 days of life, and (B) determine if a worsening of brain injury from 12-36 hours to 3 days and 10 days of life is related to electrographic seizures.
    3. To explore if the severity of MR abnormalities in the first 12-36 hours of life is associated with 18 month and 36 month neurodevelopmental outcome in term newborns with encephalopathy. Neurodevelopmental outcome will be determined at these time points using age appropriate standardized measures of function.

    PREMIE Study: Abnormal Brain Development in Premature Newborns
    This research project aims to understand when and how brain injury and abnormal brain development occurs in the premature newborn, by using advanced MR imaging techniques and detailed long-term follow-up. We hypothesize that delayed brain development in widespread brain regions, due to systemic illness, critical care therapy and non-cystic white matter injury, results in impaired motor and cognitive function in children born prematurely.

    Our objective is to fully characterize the consequences of abnormal brain development and white matter injury in a prospective cohort of premature newborns using advanced MRI techniques and detailed long term follow-up. 

    We will assess brain development and injury with advanced MR imaging techniques including high-resolution MRI, diffusion tensor imaging and MR spectroscopic imaging. We will also collect clinical data and perform a neurological exam with amplitude integrated electroencephalogram. We will perform follow-up assessments to evaluate neurodevelopmental outcomes in these children at 18 and 36 months adjusted age and at 8 years of age.

    Fetal CHD Study: Abnormal Brain Development In Newborns with Congenital Heart Disease (CHD)
    This proposal focuses specifically on brain development and injury in the fetus and term newborn with CHD. Our objective is to fully characterize the consequences of abnormal brain development and WMI in a prospective cohort of fetuses and term newborns with CHD using advanced MRI techniques and detailed long-term follow-up.

    We will test the hypothesis that delayed brain development results in impaired motor and cognitive function in children born with CHD. Our three specific aims are:

    1. To characterize brain development and injury in utero and postnatally, before and after cardiac surgery, in term newborns with transposition of the great arteries and single ventricle physiology.
    2. To determine if the risk of white matter is related to impaired brain oxygen delivery in the setting of delayed brain microstructural and metabolic development.
    3. To determine whether altered brain development and white matter injury in newborns with CHD results in abnormal 1, 2.5 and 4-year neurodevelopmental outcome.
    Selected Publications

    Chau V, Poskit KJ, McFadden DE, Bowen-Roberts T, Synnes A, Brant R, Sargent M, Soulikias W, Miller SP. Effect of chorioamnionitis on brain development and injury in premature newborns. Ann Neurol 2009; 66(2): 155-64.

    Chau V, Poskitt KJ, Miller SP. Advanced neuroimaging techniques for the term newborn with encephalopathy. Pediatr Neurol 2009; 40(3):181-188.

    Chau V, Farrell K. Neonatal seizures. In: Current management in child neurology: BL Maria Ed. Gainesville: B. C. Decker, 2009: 599-606.

    Chau V, Poskitt KJ, Sargent MA, Lupton BA, Hill A, Roland E, Miller SP. Brain imaging in asphyxiated term newborns: a comparison between CT and MRI scans. Pediatrics 2009; 123(1): 319-326.

    Sherlock RL, McQuillen PS, Miller SP.  Preventing brain injury in newborns with congenital heart disease: brain imaging and innovative trial designs.  aCCENT. Stroke 2009; 40(1): 327-32.

    Li AM, Chau V, Poskitt KJ, Sargent MA, Lupton BA, Hill A, Roland E, Miller SP. White matter injury in term newborns with neonatal encephalopathy. Pediatr Res 2009; 65(1): 85-89.

    Glass HC, Bonifacio SL, Chau V, Glidden DB, Poskitt KJ, Ferriero DM, Barkovich AJ, Miller SP. Recurrent postnatal infection is associated with progressive white matter injury in premature infants. Pediatrics 2008;122(8):299-305.

    Gosselin I, Thiffault I, Tétrault M, Chau V, Dicaire MJ, Loisel L, Emond M, Senderek J, Mathieu J, Dupré N, Vanasse M, Puymirat J, Brais B. Founder SH3TC2 mutations are responsible for a CMT4C French-Canadians cluster. Neuromuscul Disord 2008; 18(6): 483-92.

    Chau V, Clément JF, D’Anjou G, Robitaille Y, Vanasse M. Congenital axonal neuropathy and encephalopathy. Pediatr Neurol 2008;38:261-266.

    Honours & Awards

    Laura MacRae Trust Fund Award (Fellowship achievements), 2009

    Travel Research Award – Pediatric Academic Societies/SPR, 2009

    Neurobiology of Disease in Children Young Investigator Award – Child Neurology Society, 2008

    Travel Research Award – Pediatric Academic Societies/SPR, 2008

    Research Award of the Fondation pour la Recherche sur les Maladies Infantiles, 2006 – 2008

    Research Award of the Bourse McLaughlin de l’Université Laval, 2006 – 2007

    Recipient of a two-year scholarship at Collège Mérici, Sainte-Foy (Quebec), 1993

    Recipient of the Governor General of Canada Academic Medal, 1993

    Research Group Members