Advanced signal processing and MRI to assess cerebrovascular health in small vessel disease and dementia

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences

Abstract

Dementia affects over 45 million people worldwide and costs over £26 billion per year in the UK alone. There are no effective treatments. A clearer understanding of the underlying abnormalities is needed to develop effective treatments.

Vascular dysfunction is an early feature in Alzheimer's disease, small vessel disease, and vascular dementia: cerebrovascular reactivity (CVR), intracranial vessel pulsatility, blood-brain barrier function, and interstitial fluid drainage, are all chronically impaired, and lead to brain damage. However, the contribution of each, and the order in which they occur to cause the pathology, is unknown.

This project will focus on developing advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) methods to measure CVR, brain pulsatility and other aspects of small vessel function, mapping these onto detailed structural brain images to study how changes in these functions lead to brain damage. Better methods to assess dynamic vascular function are essential to study how brain damage occurs in several common diseases. For example, better methods to time the effect of heart beat and breathing on the pulsation of blood and cerebrospinal fluid through the brain, and to relate blood vessel dilation to blood flow and pulsation, are needed.

The student will work on advanced and complex MRI and computational image analysis techniques as applied to human brain imaging in a multidisciplinary team including medical physicists, neurologists, neuroscientists, image analysts and statisticians. The student will apply these methods in ongoing studies of volunteers and patients. The student will gain practical experience of research MRI in volunteers and patients.

A strong background in a quantitative subject such as physics, engineering, computer science or mathematics is necessary; experience in medical imaging and neuroscience may be advantageous but is not essential.

The PhD is funded by the MRC as part of the UK Dementia Research Institute Centre at the University of Edinburgh, duration 3.5 years, starting by September 2019. The UK Dementia Research Institute is a £250 million Government investment in dementia research across 6 UK centres. Edinburgh has a vibrant brain MRI research community with excellent UK and international collaborations in small vessel disease, stroke and dementia.

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