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  • The overall goal of my work is to look at factors that help or harm the brain. So we

  • all have a brain we're all worried about what we can do best to improve our education or

  • improve our health. And so we do a whole range of imaging projects that look at factors that

  • help the brain such as exercise and cardiovascular fitness, what types of things we should do

  • to improve our brain and also how diseases affect the brain so we have a lot of projects

  • looking at Alzheimer's, Schizophrenia and HIV and understanding how those affect the brain too.

  • Some of the biggest questions of our time are how you treat disease. If you

  • see a terrible disease such as cancer or Alzheimer's disease, one of the ways of seeing whether

  • treatments are working, and imaging, which is an area that NIBIB invests a great deal

  • in, is really a good record of whether treatments are working. We're all familiar with going

  • to the doctor and being told we're getting better or getting worse but imaging really

  • gives you a physical picture of what's going on, so that's an exciting area to study.

  • There's a really new type of imaging called diffusion MRI and it basically looks at the

  • wiring of the brain. And so if you were flying over Los Angeles or over Bethesda you'd see

  • a whole lot of freeways and could probably guess what was going on down below. If you

  • were on the ground you could see the functions of the different freeways and the different

  • stores. This imaging takes us from a sort of bird's eye view right down to the ground

  • where you can see all the physical connections between the axons. And a lot of diseases disrupt

  • those connections. So, neurogenetic disorders of childhood there's often disruptions in

  • the migration fibers and we can see those. And diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, there's a loss of

  • connections. So we're often able to reconstruct which parts of the brain are going wrong and

  • look at some of the therapies that are able to help them.

  • All over the world people are scanning people's brains right now, so if we were to plan a

  • project that scanned thousands or tens of thousands of people it would be very costly.

  • So one of the ways we save money is we work with people around the world. And one project

  • we do called Enigma, we collect data from 125 sites from around the world and they've

  • been scanning people with schizophrenia, bipolar illness, or depression. We try and put together

  • a detailed picture of what those illnesses do to the brain. And so it's actually quite

  • an interesting project. All of these things were begun independently and all the data

  • is coming to our lab, we're able to say which parts of the brain are affected by the diseases

  • and which treatments help.

  • We're all pretty unique, so even if we have

  • an average picture of Alzheimer's disease, for example, it'll just show you the typical

  • way it spreads in the brain. Now that can be very useful because you can compare an

  • individual to the database. You can say, "Well, you seem to be doing pretty well because the

  • brain loss is going less rapidly than in the database of people the same age." So I think

  • the notion is that you can make comparative statements about a new person's scan based

  • on all the collected data from other people and that can be very reassuring.

The overall goal of my work is to look at factors that help or harm the brain. So we

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A2 brain imaging alzheimer disease alzheimer disease schizophrenia

Picturing the Brain

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    shing posted on 2013/09/22
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