Development of preclinical imaging to refine studies of dysfunctional blood flow in the brain

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leicester
Department Name: Neuroscience, Psychology and Behaviour


This neuroscience-based PhD will use animal models of ageing, stroke and hypertension in order to develop magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques which allow us to study how the mechanisms controlling blood flow in the brain in response to metabolic demand are affected by these clinically important conditions. The brain has high energy consumption and requires a constant supply, via the blood stream, of oxygen and glucose for normal functioning. In order for brain function to be maintained changes in blood flow need to occur to meet the changes in metabolic demand of brain tissue. However, the mechanisms underlying these changes in blood flow are not fully understood. Current techniques available to study these mechanisms are invasive and limited in their ability to penetrate the vascular system within deep brain structures. This PhD aims to develop non-invasive, state-of-the-art imaging techniques, i.e. MRI, that will allow us to study changes in blood flow in response to metabolic demands during ageing and vascular disease. In addition, this PhD will also involve behavioural studies of cognitive abilities during ageing and vascular disease in order to see how cognitive function is correlated with changes in blood flow.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
MR/N013913/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2025
1853139 Studentship MR/N013913/1 01/10/2016 31/03/2020 Andrew Crofts
Title Rat model of healthy aging for longitudinal functional MRI 
Description Through improved animal enrichment, use of a novel anaesthetic agent, and improved physiological monitoring in Wistar Han rats, we performed longitudinal fMRI on rats up to 18 months old (3/4 of lifespan) to understand changes in neurovascular coupling in healthy aging. Previous rodent fMRI studies have not used a longitudinal design or have only studied disease models in the short term, and healthy aging has not previously been studied. This model is both novel and reduces the number of animals required for studies of age-related disease. Paper currently under review 
Type Of Material Model of mechanisms or symptoms - mammalian in vivo 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Method has been presented as a poster at the 27th annual meeting of the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, the 29th International Symposium on Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism and the NC3Rs Midlands syposium. Use of improved enrichment for animal welfare, including regular playpen access, is being considered at both the University of Leicester and University of Nottingham. 
Description Brain Awareness Day 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Presented my work on refining preclinical imaging methods as part of public event presenting talks and posters on current research
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
Description Doctoral College Day 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Presented a poster focusing on animal welfare aspects of my methods to an audience from science and humanities colleges within the univeristy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020