Head of Section

Section Head

Dr Chris Clark

Contact

Neuroimaging & Neural Networks
UCL Institute of Child Health
30 Guilford Street
London WC1N 1EH

Neuroimaging and Neural Networks


The Neuroimaging Section consists of the Imaging and Biophysics Unit (IBU) and the Centre for Advanced Biological Imaging (CABI). Researchers in IBU are concerned with the development and application of advanced neuroimaging techniques for improved understanding of disease in childhood, including improvements in diagnosis and prediction of outcome. The primary imaging modality is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The work of IBU encompasses a broad range of disciplines from imaging physics, image processing and analysis, biophysical modeling and connectomics with application of these methods across a broad range of conditions in childhood. The focus of IBU has been primarily centred on imaging of the brain with particular attention paid to the dramatic changes in brain structure occurring from the neonatal period through childhood and adolescence and into young adulthood. As such IBU has a significant methodological programme with grants from EPSRC and BBSRC to support methods that are tailored specifically for use in clinical studies in childhood. 

A broad and diverse range of applied research studies is facilitated by strong links with Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and the Radiology Department there to ensure translation of new developments into clinical practice. Examples of this include a functional MRI and tractography service for the pre-surgical evaluation of children with intractable temporal lobe epilepsy. Epilepsy imaging is a major theme in IBU and work is ongoing to develop EEG-fMRI as a key evaluation tool in children being considered for surgery. Other clinical applications include studies in children with visual impairment, autism, dyslexia, anorexia nervosa, cerebral palsy, paediatric multiple sclerosis and sickle cell disease. Further details of these studies can be found on this website. IBU is also active in imaging projects outside of the brain and is active in the field of renal MRI. Neuromuscular MRI represents an important new programme of research for the Unit. The arrival of a new state of the art 3T MRI scanner with powerful magnetic field gradients at Great Ormond Street Hospital in the Autumn of 2014 heralds an exciting new opportunity for advanced paediatric imaging research. IBU is also an active participant in the broader imaging programme across UCL and many of the onging projects in the Unit include collaborations with researchers across the University, including the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, Institute of Neurology and the Department of Computer Science at UCL.

A staff list and a summary of publications generated by the Section are available.

Tractography

Part of a “tractography” reconstruction of the white matter connectivity of the brain.

Magnetic resonance physics

The underlying physics of modern MRI goes back to the mid-twentieth century, and there have been many significant advances since then. Nevertheless, there is substantial scope to improve on the quality of the information available, and one project under investigation within the Neuroimaging Section, in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Nottingham, explores the phenomenon of “hyperpolarisation”. The aim is to generate agents that, as a result of their high nuclear spin polarisation, would give rise to very large magnetic resonance signals. Potential applications include spectroscopic investigations of tumour metabolism and early response to treatment.

Sequence development and experimental design

Specialisation is often necessary to make the best of medical imaging methods. To this end, some of the current research within the Neuroimaging Section focuses on the development of customised imaging sequences for particular applications, experimental design for investigating particular properties of tissue, or novel applications of existing imaging modalities. Projects in this area include the use of functional and perfusion MRI to investigate renal function, and hence renal damage; and combining MRI and electrophysiology to measure and understand human brain activity across spatial and temporal scales.

Arterial spin labelling

Standard clinical images (T2w and T1w), and derived parameter maps from a novel perfusion model.

Image analysis methodology

Once medical images have been acquired from patients, it is increasingly common to perform various kinds of image analysis on them. The Section’s research in this area aims to help emphasise and visualise key features of the imaging data. Projects which are focussed on this layer of the process include the development of methods to reliably locate particular white matter structures in the brain; and investigations into the so-called “connectome”, its variability in the normal population and how it is affected by disease.

Connectome graph

Stages in the reconstruction of a whole-brain “connectome”, representing the pattern of interconnections between regions. (Source)

Clinical applications

The clinical applications of medical imaging techniques are the driving force behind the methodological and basic science work discussed above. We lean heavily on our extensive collaborative links with clinical colleagues across the Hospital and Institute to translate these developments towards clinical practice. Current and recent projects based in the Neuroimaging Section include an investigation into MRI biomarkers of pathophysiology in paediatric sickle cell anaemia; the use of simultaneous EEG-fMRI to study brain networks involved in the clinical expression of absence epilepsy and in juvenile myoclonic epilepsy before and after treatment; and an examination of the structural and functional connectivity of the amygdala in autism spectrum disorders.

Page last modified on 28 feb 14 16:15