Neuro4 | Main Goals

We now aim to consolidate our research program, from in vivo molecular imaging, and studies of mechanisms of disease to human cognitive neuroscience, taking advantage on the proven ability to study large cohorts of healthy volunteers (more than 600 on a recent study of ageing of different visual functions) and patients (hundreds of patients studied in several national and international neuroimaging/phenotyping projects on neurodegenerative diseases). The feasibility is proven by the design of new molecular probes for imaging of structure, and published studies of chemistry and function with a focus on the human brain in health and disease. We will now be able continue publishing multimodal studies in basic and clinical neuroscience, by adding possibilities to unravel molecular mechanisms of disease to the development of novel diagnostic imaging biomarkers to better define and detect early disease processes and test new therapies. We have implemented MR and PET based imaging probes based on Dopamine, GABA and Glutamate, which are neurotransmitters that have been related to developmental, ageing, neurological and psychiatric diseases affecting dopaminergic cortical- basal ganglia interactions such as Parkinson’s Disease Schizophrenia and Autism, and others (all with solid publications already achieved). The potential was demonstrated by the recent publication in Brain that confirmed in humans the hypothesis raised in animal models of impaired Gabaergic dysfunction. This strategy is anchored on the success, as shown by international evaluations of the main affiliated research units, to provide leading publications linking Vision, Neuroscience, Healthy Ageing and Neurodegeneration, Cognitive Sciences and Neuroengineering. From the methodological point of view, we aim to consolidate the ability to combine different modalities (as shown the track record in performing simultaneous EEG/fMRI studies to study cognition and mechanisms of disease such as in epilepsia). Finally we will expand our research agreement with Siemens, which allowed for the first time to implement GABA measuring sequences in their scanners (and together with a collaboration with John Hopkins University a clinical neuroscience study).

The Internationalization of Research Programs will be achieved by the development of the participation of EuroBioimaging Medical Imaging Pillar, continued Participation in the Joint Prorgram in Neurodegenerative Diseases (JNPD) and reinforcement of the links with European FP7 projects and the Human Brain Project (see internationalization). We will foster a Method development Pillar in structural and functional MR, PET and imaging of neurotransmission at the spectroscopic and molecular level. We will add to the ongoing implementation of radiotracers for brain imaging in basic and clinical neuroscience, with a focus on dopamine and neuropeptides. We will deploy or refine novel spectroscopic techniques to measure GABAergic and Glutamatergic Neurotransmission and Metabolism, and develop new MR pulse sequences based on the Research Agreement with Siemens and Engineering Staff training. We will continue to refine our MR analysis methods (fMRI, DTI, etc) pipelines, as well as PET analysis methods including compartmental models. Neuroengineering and Method development in Multimodal Imaging will focus on EEG/fMRI for basic neuroscience (decision making) and clinical applications. TMS/EEG protocols are being implemented for rehabilitation studies (stroke) and to measure excitability/inhibition in neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders. Based on the team FP7 expertise in Brain Computer Interfaces we will transfer fMRI paradigms to EEG and fNIR in the context of BCI applications and Clinical Neuroscience. Data Mining and Biomarker Discovery using Multimodal Data is also a feasible target, based on our IT System and previous publications.