Wellcome Trust Strategic Award

‘Multi-Scale and Multi-Modal Assessment of Coupling in the Healthy and Diseased Brain’

Introduction

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The human brain is a complex organ that relies on exchange of information between its different parts and constant maintenance of electrical, chemical and metabolic processes. These systems and distinct brain regions must be optimally coupled, over multiple spatial scales and domains, for the brain to operate normally. Our aim is to substantially deepen our understanding of how different brain systems (electrical, chemical, structural, metabolic) interact with each other and how differences in these interactions impact on brain function and behaviour. A range of neuroimaging techniques has been developed to probe different systems. We apply these routinely but do not fully understand what they measure, and whether they tell us the full story about health and/or disease. There is a clear need to improve both the specificity and sensitivity of these individual techniques.
We also do not know how signals from different techniques link with each other. We will look at people where we already know there are differences in coupling, including people with epilepsy and psychosis. We will then look at coupling before and after perturbing the brain, through brain training, magnetic stimulation or drugs.

Details

Our vision is to deliver a step change in understanding the human brain, by creating an imaging programme that uniquely combines the very best neuroimaging expertise, equipment and techniques to answer the fundamental question of how continuous interactions of electrical, chemical, vascular and metabolic processes result in the multi-scale network activity that underpins inter-individual differences in cognition, and key behavioural/functional brain changes in disease. This integrated characterisation of brain coupling over multiple domains will transform our understanding of the working brain and guide approaches aimed at remedial action when normal coupling is disturbed.
We will capitalise on the opportunities afforded by Cardiff’s significant investment in a new state-of-the-art research centre that co-houses cutting-edge non-invasive technologies, including 7T, 2x3T, 3T MRI with ultra-strong magnetic field gradients (microstructure scanner), MEG and TMS/TDCS.

A team of 11 methodological and 3 clinical Fellows, each focused on a specific aspect of coupling, but applied within a systematic framework of integration, will allow us to achieve our key goals, which are to:

  • Optimise signal capture using the most advanced imaging technologies to yield
    sensitive, robust and repeatable markers of structure/function;
  • Understand these signals thereby maximising their biological interpretability and value to neurocognitive models of human behaviour;
  • Develop an integrative modelling framework for combining data from multiple imaging modalities;
  • Characterise changes in multi-scale coupling following perturbations, including
    behavioural, electromagnetic and pharmacological interventions.

Our approach harnesses and integrates advanced technologies and techniques to generate an integrated characterisation of brain coupling over multiple domains, thereby transforming our understanding of the working brain and when to apply remedial action when normal coupling is disturbed.

Our programme will generate a strategically important framework, linking local, national and international assets. It will build research capacity to complement Cardiff University’s significant investment in an expanded CUBRIC, as well as linking the UK’s three 7T MRI centres and the UK’s leading microstructure imaging labs.

Recruitment Progress on the WTSA Project Team:

Research Fellows recruited:

Dr Chris Allen, TMS/TES Fellow

Dr Carl Hodgetts, Cognitive Imaging Fellow

Dr Holly Rossiter, MEG Fellow

Dr Mike Germuska, Physiological Modelling Fellow

Dr Gemma Williams, Clinical Fellow (Psychosis)

Dr Alex Shaw, Research Associate in Neurophysiologically informed modelling

Dr Mohamed Tachrount, Research Associate in MR Sequence Development

Dr Craig Hedge, Cognitive Modelling Fellow (due to start soon)

Project Manager recruited:

Mrs Ying Lin, Project Manager (WTSA Programme)

Research Fellows currently advertised:

6045BR – Epilepsy Clinical Research Fellow

Advertisement for more Research Associate/Research Fellow positions will follow soon on the website.

Co-Applicants on the Wellcome Trust Strategic Award:

  • Prof. Derek Jones (Cardiff University) – Principal Applicant
  • Prof. Yaniv Assaf (Tel Aviv University)
  • Dr. Chris Chambers (Cardiff University)
  • Prof. Kim Graham (Cardiff University)
  • Prof. Peter Jezzard (University of Oxford)
  • Prof. David Linden (Cardiff University)
  • Prof. Peter Morris (University of Nottingham)
  • Prof. David Nutt (Imperial College London)
  • Prof. Petroc Sumner (Cardiff University)
  • Prof. Krish Singh (Cardiff University)
  • Prof. Richard Wise (Cardiff University)