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Experts highlight applications of multimodal imaging for minimally invasive diagnosis, therapy and understanding of regulatory pathways.
John Lauriello, professor and chair, psychiatry, University of Missouri-Columbia
Cary Savage, professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Kansas Medical Center
Functional MRI Studies of Health Behaviors: People make hundreds of health decisions everyday – for example, what and how much to eat, whether to exercise, whether to use drugs such as nicotine and alcohol and, if so, how much. Health behaviors have a cumulative impact on physical and economic well-being at both the individual and national level. For example, health problems related to obesity, such as Type 2 diabetes, are expected to continue to rise and, for the first time in modern history, life expectancies in the US are anticipated to decline. Current estimates of the cost of obesity are as high as $ 147 billion a year and obesity is the number one preventable cause of rising health care costs. In the time of a national health care debate, preventable risk factors for disease are central to controlling spiraling health costs.
There is growing interest in how the brain regulates health behaviors such as those impacting obesity. Obesity arises from chronic imbalances between energy intake and expenditure. Health-related decisions affecting energy balance are influenced by a convergence of processes in the brain, as individuals weigh the perceived balance between the rewarding and punishing aspects of behavioral choices, and whether gratification is immediate or delayed. Functional neuroimaging is proving to be a powerful tool for understanding brain mechanisms contributing to energy intake and expenditure. To illustrate these applications, Dr. Savage will briefly review functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies of food motivation and reward processing in obese and healthy groups documenting differences in brain activation. The focus of this work is ultimately on clinical applications, such as identifying brain function predictors of success in diets and adherence to exercise programs.
Meena Iyer, assistant professor, occupational therapy, University of Missouri-Columbia
During the past two decades noninvasive brain stimulation techniques such as transcranial direct current stimulation and transcranial magnetic stimulation are being increasingly used for the diagnosis and treatment of neuropsychiatric conditions. Animal experiments have formed the framework of preclinical studies used to stimulate cortical neuronal assemblies. This talk presents an overview of these techniques and will seek to facilitate a discussion of how these techniques in combination with functional magnetic resonance imaging, positron emission tomography, diffusion tensor imaging of axons, and other methods could be used in parallel in animal and human trials to explore cortical reorganization.
L. Dean Chapman, professor, anatomy and cell biology, Canada Research Chair in X-Ray Imaging, University of Saskatchewan
Biomedical Research Using Synchrotron Radiation: A synchrotron biomedical research facility is nearing completion at the Canadian Light Source in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The Biomedical Imaging and Therapy (BMIT) facility will provide high intensity, high x-ray energy light for a wide variety of imaging and therapy programs. This facility is now in the construction phase with some initial operations which began December 2008. The BMIT facility will have two beamline complexes; an insertion device source beamline at which the bulk of the imaging and therapy research on humans, animals, and plants will be carried out, and an ancillary bend magnet source beamline which will serve as a proof-of-principle facility and research tool for new methods of imaging and therapy. The bend magnet beamline is now being used for first experiments using conventional imaging and diffraction enhanced imaging). Several imaging methods (absorption-edge subtraction imaging, diffraction enhanced imaging, phase contrast imaging, and absorption imaging) in projection and computed tomography modes as well as monochromatic beam and filtered white beam therapy methods will be available.
The layout of the facility will be presented, the beamline status along with examples of the types of research that can be carried out at BMIT with emphasis on new imaging methods and applications being developed. Examples of results from the bend magnet beamline will also be presented.
John G. Kerns, associate professor, psychological sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia
Understanding the Risk for Neuropsychiatric Disorders Using Functional Brain Imaging: MU has recently opened the Brain Imaging Center, a research dedicated Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) facility. Research at the center is focused on understanding the nature of basic cognitive and emotional processes as well as the role of disturbances in those processes to understand neuropsychiatric disorders. For example, research at the center has focused on understanding the nature of risk for schizophrenia and for alcohol addiction. In research with patients, we have found that people with schizophrenia exhibit dysfunction in multiple brain regions, including the prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex. Using functional MRI, we have found that people at-risk for schizophrenia only exhibit dysfunction in the prefrontal cortex, suggesting that prefrontal cortex impairment might be a critical risk factor for the development of schizophrenia. In other research at the center, we are investigating whether we can use rehabilitation strategies to improve prefrontal cortex functioning in people with schizophrenia and in people at-risk for the disorder. We are also examining whether exposure to extreme levels of alcohol can cause relatively enduring damage to the prefrontal cortex. Research with animals has consistently found that extreme alcohol exposure causes damage to the developing brain, especially the prefrontal cortex. However, human research has yet to examine whether extreme alcohol exposure results in damage to the prefrontal cortex. We are currently examining whether young adults who extreme drink on their 21st birthday exhibit damage to their prefrontal cortex. This type of brain imaging research ideally will help us understand the risk for neuropsychiatric disorders and help us design ways to prevent the development of severe mental disorders.