Functional Neuroimaging at Ultra-High Magnetic Field.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: School of Life Sciences

Abstract

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is widely used to study brain function. Most fMRI is carried out in magnets of 1.5T or 3T field strength. However, we will shortly be taking delivery of the first 7T MRI scanner in Europe. It will improve substantially the sensitivity of fMRI and open up exciting new areas of research. For instance, instead of studying repeated trials of an event, the increased sensitivity will allow us to study a single trial. This will make it possible to undertake studies of learning and of isolated events such as hallucinations, as well as of the response of the brain to pharmaceutical agents. The increased sensitivity will also be used to produce extremely high resolution images, allowing us to study detailed brain anatomy in vivo. In addition,we will be able to make new and more precise measurements of blood flow and volume, and also metabolism in the brain. This will help us to understand the mechanisms that underpin brain function, enabling us to develop the quantitative MR measures of brain activity that are essential if fMRI is to realise its full potential. However MRI at 7T will not be straightforward, and so we must develop new equipment and methods to exploit the potential of ultra-high magnetic field. We will also develop new methods of analyzing data for single trial and high resolution fMRI. The advantages of 7T will be exploited in studies of hearing, the control of movement and mental disorders, such as schizophrenia.

Through the University we are involved in many outreach and access activities. We give talks to schools, host visits by school children and contribute to schemes aimed at widening University access. We give talks to interested members of the public arranged through professional bodies or directly with local clubs and interest groups. We participate in the Researchers in Residence Scheme, where research scientists are placed in schools. Our web site is accessible to the general public: currently it includes resources for schools, the general public, MR specialists and other scientists. We use the normal scientific channels to disseminate our results, but our links to MR system manufacturers, and other collaborators ensure the transfer of our ideas to a wider user community. We train many research students, and our research informs our undergraduate teaching.

Technical Summary

The main thrust of our future development programme will be directed towards functional magnetic resonance imaging at ultra-high magnetic field (7T). These developments will bring unique advantages once the technical challenges involved in scanning at 7T have been addressed. In particular the significantly increased intrinsic signal to noise ratio, along with the enhanced BOLD (blood oxygenation level dependent) contrast at 7T, are expected to yield large gains in BOLD contrast to noise ratio (CNR). These gains will be of particular benefit to event related fMRI, where the sensitivity of single trial paradigms will be greatly enhanced. This will extend the use of fMRI to the study of unique cognitive events, and open up new opportunities for investigating learning, attention and unpredictable events, such as auditory hallucinations, as well as allowing improved monitoring of changes in brain function during pharmacological intervention. The increased CNR will also be used to improve the spatial resolution with which functional domains can be mapped. Our overall aim is to develop a 7T MR facility that maximises the benefits of ultra-high field for functional neuroimaging. To achieve this we will develop novel, specialised radiofrequency, gradient and shim coils, along with acquisition strategies that maximise functional CNR, whilst minimising susceptibility effects and the impact of physiological noise. Quantitative MRI and MRS measures of brain activity based on the haemodynamic and metabolic responses to it, as well as MRI direct detection methods, will be developed. Simultaneous EEG/fMRI and parallel MEG/fMRI studies will be undertaken to identify and improve understanding of the relationship between functional and spontaneous brain networks. We will optimise data acquisition and, in collaboration with FMRIB, data analysis methods, for single trial fMRI. The advantages of 7T will be exploited in studies of audition, sensorimotor function and mental disorders.
 
Description Health Protection Agency
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
Impact Advisory group for non ionising radiation Working Group on MRI patient and volunteer exposure, 2006-2007 Working party on epidemiology of MR worker exposure, 2008-
 
Description Vertigo paper
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
Impact Used in determionation of static field staff exposure limits
 
Description ART Project Grant
Amount £23,500 (GBP)
Funding ID ART-PPG2006A-1 
Organisation Alzheimer's Research UK 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2006 
End 08/2007
 
Description BBSRC project grant
Amount £800,000 (GBP)
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start  
 
Description EPSRC Project Grant
Amount £377,840 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start  
 
Description MRC Fellowship
Amount £109,981 (GBP)
Organisation Medical Research Council (MRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2007 
End 10/2009
 
Description MRC Project Grant
Amount £614,205 (GBP)
Organisation Medical Research Council (MRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2007 
End 04/2011
 
Description MS Society Project Grant
Amount £127,792 (GBP)
Organisation Multiple Sclerosis Society 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2009 
End 08/2011
 
Description MS Society Project Grant
Amount £39,745 (GBP)
Organisation Multiple Sclerosis Society 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2008 
End 03/2009
 
Description Marie Curie early stage training centre
Amount £1,000,000 (GBP)
Organisation Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions 
Sector Academic/University
Country Global
Start 11/2006 
End 10/2009
 
Description Marie Curie training award
Amount £2,000,000 (GBP)
Organisation Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions 
Sector Academic/University
Country Global
Start  
 
Title Data analysis techniques for MEG 
Description Source localisation, and connectivity algorithms for MEG 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2010 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Collaborative papers with other research groups 
 
Title EEG Beamformer source localisation 
Description Source localisation methodology for EEG. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2008 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Now offered by Brain Products on their EEG systems. 
 
Title Improved arterial spin labelling sequences 
Description Improved imaging sequences for measuring perfusion using arterial spin labelling. 
Type Of Material Physiological assessment or outcome measure 
Year Produced 2008 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Collaborative grant applications 
 
Description Cognitive effects of magnetic fields 
Organisation Utrecht University
Country Netherlands 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Provide access to high field MR systems and expertise in electromagnetism.
Collaborator Contribution Expertise in cognitive testing
Impact Refs 17969155, 17875601, 17290435
Start Year 2006
 
Description EEG/fMRI 
Organisation Medical Research Council (MRC)
Department MRC Institute of Hearing Research
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Expertise in MRI
Collaborator Contribution Expertise in EEG
Impact Refs 17683819, 17689767
Start Year 2007
 
Description Functional MRI 
Organisation University College London
Department Institute of Neurology
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Provide access to 7T scanner and expertise.
Collaborator Contribution Provided access to rare volunteers and specialist stimulation equipment
Impact Refs 17553420
Start Year 2006
 
Description Functional electrical stimulation in MS 
Organisation University of Nottingham
Department School of Psychology Nottingham
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Provided access to 3T MRI scanner and expertise. Modified stimulation equipment to make it MR compatible.
Impact Publication ID's 18950717.
Start Year 2007
 
Description MEG source localisation methodology 
Organisation VSM Medtech Ltd.
Country Canada 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Development of new techniques for MEG source localisation. Development of multi-modal fMRI/MEG/EEG methods.
Collaborator Contribution Provide expert advice on MEG.
Impact papers with pubmed id's 18155612 19049883 19635575
Start Year 2007
 
Description Philips T2* 
Organisation Philips Medical Systems UK Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Design and implementation of experiments to measure T2* at various field strengths.
Collaborator Contribution Expertise in use of scanners including access to proprietary information relating to hardware and software. Expertise and software for processing T2* data.
Impact Refs 17459640
 
Description Varian 
Organisation Varian Inc
Country United States 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Expertise in gradient coil design, MRI and access to MR systems for testing.
Collaborator Contribution Expertise in gradient coil design
Impact Poole et al, Concepts in magnetic resonance part B - Magnetic resonance engineering, 2007, 31B, p162-175.
Start Year 2006
 
Title Gradient design software 
Description Software for the design of magnetic field gradients. 
IP Reference  
Protection Protection not required
Year Protection Granted
Licensed Yes
Impact Gradient coil designs for split magnet PET MRI
 
Description BBC News 2007 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interview with BBCs medical correspondent on the Impact of Ultra-high-field MRI

Positive public response
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2007
 
Description BBC News 2009 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Local BBC news interview on the Differential diagnosis of MS using MRI

Positive public response
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
 
Description Get on 4 Uni 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 30 academically gifted school pupils whose parents had not attended university visited the Sir Peter Mansfield MR Centre for a 40 minute talk followed by a demonstration of the imaging facilities (3T, 7T MRI and MEG).

Feedback from pupils was very positive.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008,2009,2010
 
Description Heston Blumenthal 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact BBC TV programme

General enquiries
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008
 
Description Horizon 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact TV program about fMRI.

Public understanding of our work was enhanced
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
 
Description Northhampton Schools 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Demonstration lectures in schools. We run approximately 20 such activities with other schools.

Outreach, widening participation, gifted and talented provision.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2006,2007,2008
 
Description Ongoing school outreach activities 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Outreach activities including demonstratins, lectures and visites to the lab.

Over 500 children have been interacted with.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2006,2007,2008,2009,2010
 
Description Public open day 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Open day as part of national science week

Improved public understanding of science
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2007,2009