To develop Magnetic Resonance Imaging for studying human brain function. The aim of the project is to establish a firm understanding of the neurophysiological mechanisms of brain activation, which will lead to the development of standardised protocols for clinical applications. This will also include the development of simple and easy-to-use tools for quality control for such examinations.
To expand our understanding of the basic methodology required for functional brain MRI and of the problems in interpretation of functional MRI data, correlate MRI results to other functional modalities, such as PET and MEG, and collectively develop data analysis tools for functional brain mapping. Optimisation of MRI techniques will involve investigation of imaging sequences, static field strength, hardware and computational capabilities, and the physiology underlying the observed MR signal changes. Several approaches will be investigated, based on blood oxygenation (BOLD), blood flow and blood velocity measurements in small and large vessels as well as other and potentially more direct measurements of neuronal activity. Similarly, fast spectroscopy methods will be implemented to investigate metabolic changes during brain stimulation. These studies will provide a better understanding of the mechanisms of coupling between neuronal/synaptic activity, metabolism and hemodynamics, and of the limitations or artifacts in functional MRI data. Standardised task paradigms will be developed within the constraints imposed by the physiology of the response. These paradigms will be applicable across imaging modalities to permit cross-validation within the same subjects. A significant feature will be joint programmatic development of data analysis tools. A common platform for functional; brain data analysis will result, appropriate for detecting activation within individuals, yet permitting comparisons across subjects and across imaging modalities.
In important part of the project will be to design and perform easy-to-use tests for quality control of clinical scanners, which allow an assessment of the feasibility of clinical functional MR examinations on a day to day basis. The necessity for such tools is emphasised by the fact, that all European manufacturers of MR systems for fMRI have joined our project.
We believe that a large European team can most efficiently and effectively develop functional MRI imaging techniques and facilitate a standard for data analysis. The team members have access to high performance MRI systems representing all relevant manufacturers as well as field strength including 1.5, 2 and 3T. All of the institutions further provide access to PET or to other functional imaging technologies such as MEG, EEG, which will be compared to MRI results and dispose of state-of-the-art computer resources fully networked.
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts
WC1N 3BG London