Medicine & Dentistry-Biomedical Engineering
University of Alberta
Summary of research:
Disorders of the brain impact every age group and segment of society. For example, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and epilepsy are often apparent at an early age, whereas others such as stroke usually occur later in life. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can peer inside the human brain non-invasively to quantify its structure, metabolism, and function. The uses of MRI are multi-factorial and cover not only improved and earlier diagnosis or the assessment of potential treatments and rehabilitation, but can provide the means to discover new insights into the cause and evolution of a myriad of brain injuries. The goals are to (i) develop new MRI methodology, (ii) find new diagnostic applications for current advanced MRI techniques, and (iii) understand the healthy and diseased human brain. Our central goal is to show that non-standard, advanced, quantitative MRI techniques will detect underlying pathology in the brain that is not visible on conventional images acquired in clinical MRI and provide more specific information on the structural and metabolic status of diseased brain in humans that will correlate with disease severity or level of cognitive disability. Although other neurological and psychiatric diseases are also targeted, our primary clinical applications so far have been on brain development over the lifespan, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, stroke, and epilepsy. These on-going studies involve collaborations with the clinicians who take care of these patients. All of the above brain imaging studies take place in the Peter S Allen MRI Research Centre and use unconventional MRI techniques (e.g. diffusion tensor imaging, sodium MRI) that are not used in the Radiology clinic today. However, these novel quantitative MRI methods have and will demonstrate new insight into the human brain. Knowing what is wrong is the first step to improving the lives of individuals afflicted with these devastating neurological disorders.