I am interested in understanding the microstructural and pathological determinants which govern MRI signal changes in human brain and spinal cord tissue. MR methods I use include myelin water imaging, diffusion (various models), magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), standard magnetization transfer, inhomogeneous magnetization transfer, quantitative T1 and T2, and volumetrics. Working in collaboration with neuropathology collaborators Dr. Wayne Moore and Dr. Veronica Hirsch-Reinshagen we compare MR metrics in post-mortem tissue to histological markers for myelin, axons and many other tissue components.
To interpret abnormalities in disease it is important to fully characterize and understand observations in healthy brain and spinal cord. By conducting MRI studies on healthy controls and NMR experiments on bovine brain and myelin phantoms, one can investigate the role of tissue architecture and exchange on T1 and T2 derived measures, in the absence of pathological confounders.
CNS diseases and disorders
I also work on developing, validating and applying advanced MR methods in CNS diseases and disorders including multiple sclerosis (MS), spinal cord injury, schizophrenia & first episode psychosis, cervical spondylotic myelopathy, phenylketonuria, Krabbe Disease, Hungtington’s Disease, depression, brain tumours, subcortical ischemic vascular cognitive impairment, development, aging, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dementia, and cerebral malaria.
A significant portion of my research focuses on MS. MS is a disease of the CNS where myelin, the insulating sheath that surrounds neurons to increase signal transmission speed, is attacked. Changes in water content from inflammation and edema, loss of axons and scarring, or gliosis, can also occur, leading to symptoms and disability. MS affects everyone differently because it depends on where in the brain and/or spinal cord damage occurs – one person could have problems seeing, another person may feel numbness in their arm and someone else might have difficulty multi-tasking or remembering things. Conventional MRI is great at detecting focal areas of damage, known as lesions, but is not very specific to the type of damage. I am interested in developing, applying and validating new MR methods which will more accurately characterize the pathology that occurs in MS. Studying the brain and spinal cord changes that occur in people living with MS will help us understand the mechanisms of damage that lead to symptoms and disability, a crucial step in developing effective treatments and ultimately a cure.