The brain is a secretive organ. It hides deep within the bony plates of the skull and is so intrinsically bound up with the person to whom it belongs that study of the organ itself can be problematic.
Non-invasive imaging technology, such as our new 3 Tesla MRI scanner, has made it possible for us to study the brain in situ. We can see live changes in brain activity and blood flow, determine brain chemistry and structure – all while our subject is lying down.
Brain researchers, no less than geographers, need maps and coordinate systems to navigate the brain and communicate their observations to each other. On a map of the brain we can superimpose types of neurons, neurotransmitters, enzymes, and connectivity and functional data. We are continuing to develop and refine brain atlases of humans and experimental animals which are used internationally as the standard guides for scientific work and are also used by neurosurgeons to target small deep lying structures in the brain.
We are now constructing a new generation of brain and spinal cord maps to assist in (a) the study of animal models of disease, such as Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and Alzheimer’s disease; (b) the interpretation of human and non-human MRI and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) data, and (c) improving the accuracy of interventions in the human brain.
This group conducts cross-disciplinary research into the neurocognitive changes associated with chronic immune disorders - HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder, HIV and aging, HIV and cardio-vascular diseases, cancer, and Hepatitis C infection-related neurocognitive disorder as well as their underpinnings in brain structural and metabolic changes using MRI/MRS/DTI and PET.
This group is interested in the function of healthy brains, particularly from a biochemical point of view. It is difficult to understand why a process goes wrong in a diseased brain if you don't understand what the process should be doing in a healthy brain. We are using interdisciplinary approaches, including use of magnetic resonance, to discover the answers to these vital questions.