A Norwegian research centre is developing new magnetic resonance (MR) imaging techniques to study the brain. This could have impact for victims of brain damage as well as Alzheimer patients.
"In a way, MR is like Lego blocks," says Asta Håberg, Professor of Neuro Imaging at the Medical Imaging Laboratory (MI Lab) in Trondheim. "There's a practically infinite number of combinations of what we can take images of, so we test out new combinations to see what we can find. This is how we arrived at the methods that enable us to perform faster, higher-quality MR imaging."
MI Lab is one of Norway's 14 original Centres for Research-based Innovation (SFI) which have received funding from the Research Council of Norway since 2007.
Professor Håberg is involved in a project to study brain damage from accidents, with the objective of finding the best MR variable for establishing prognoses for patients. In a follow-up study, researchers are studying 100 patients over four years. Using repeated MR imaging, they hope to find a clinical variable, present shortly after the accident, that predicts patients' condition one year later. A method that can determine long-term prognoses for victims of brain damage would be useful in individualising rehabilitation training.
Research on memory
The SFI centre's MR group is also running another exciting project related to memory functions. Problems with memory afflict patients suffering from multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, depression, Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia and more. MI Lab scientists are working to locate the brain areas that are activated when we use our memory.
It turns out that the areas which first lose functionality with the onset of dementia are related to olfactory function, memory and directional sense. The brain areas that support these functions are located within the temporal lobe.
"Brain researchers believe it will eventually be possible to predict age-related dementia 10-20 years before onset by examining brain activity," says Professor Håberg. "With early diagnosis, disease progression can be slowed. But it will be some years before we have cracked all the necessary codes."
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