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Connecting gene discovery and genomics to imaging signals

two researchers analyse a brain scan in the MR control room

Our vision is to understand the brain in health and disease through advanced imaging methods, tuned to reveal relevant and specific features of brain structure and function.

The quest for better research, diagnostic and prognostic measurement tools in medicine has pushed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) towards higher field strengths.

The great increase in biological information available from moving to 7 Tesla for MRI and spectroscopy will bring a disproportionate benefit to UK experimental medicine, especially in disorders of the central nervous system.

Advancing experimental medicine

Effective treatments remain elusive for many diseases affecting the central nervous system, including neurodegenerative, neurodevelopmental, neuroinflammatory and psychiatric disorders.

To advance experimental medicine in these areas, better measurements of brain structure and function are needed to understand underlying disease mechanisms and to better stratify patient sub-groups with distinct disease mechanisms and treatment responses.

Better brain imaging technology

Ultra-high field (7T) MRI offers a significant advance in brain imaging technology that can yield such measurements. 7T MRI will also give us sensitive ways of measuring whether a new treatment is working and so help us speed up the development of drugs and interventions to promote the brain’s own repair.

The support from the MRC for MRI hardware and complementary measurement technologies to optimise 7T MRI data quality and develop multi-modal imaging approaches will be augmented by large-scale support from the University for imaging methods-focused and clinical research fellows.

The University’s investment in people will ensure speedy implementation of 7T MRI and development of imaging tools (for example, quantitative functional brain imaging, susceptibility based contrasts, enhanced MR spectroscopy and multi-nuclear imaging) and their rapid translation to clinical neuroscientific research.

This will have a particular focus on connecting gene discovery and genomics to specific imaging signals and thus providing mechanistic insights that can guide the development of new treatments.

Collaborating with world-leading researchers

This work in conditions such as schizophrenia will exploit the substantial expertise in this area in the MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics. The University will maximise the speed of clinical impact by working closely with existing and new 7T centres in the UK7T network.