Congratulations to Professors Scott Reeder, MD, PhD and Oliver Wieben, PhD for being awarded an NIH Grant for their research proposal, titled “Development of 4D Flow MRI for Risk Stratification of Variceal Bleeding in Cirrhosis”. Their research focuses on the technical development and preclinical and clinical validation of rapid 4D flow MRI to stratify patients with portal hypertension for risk of variceal bleeding. The grant is for over $2.25 million and goes through the end of 2024.
“The broad, long-term objective of our research is to improve the health of the nearly 1 million Americans with advanced liver disease (cirrhosis). One of the most important complications of cirrhosis is the development of enlarged, fragile blood vessels in the wall of the lower esophagus, which can rupture without warning, leading to life-threatening bleeding. We aim to develop non-invasive MRI methods that can detect this complication before bleeding occurs, to facilitate preventative treatment that can reduce cirrhosis-associated mortality,” says Dr. Reeder.
The research team is honored to receive the grant and enthusiastic about starting the project. “We are thrilled to receive the grant! I am excited to have the resources to pursue this exciting project with my amazing colleagues in Medical Physics, Radiology, and Hepatology,” Dr. Reeder says.
Neuroradiology Fellowship Program Director and Assistant Professor JP Yu, MD, PhD started the Integrative Systems Neuroimaging Lab when he joined the Department of Radiology in 2015. The lab looks at how genes, the environment, and gene-environment interactions impact the brain’s microstructure in neurocognitive and neuropsychiatric illnesses. They use neuroimaging to help diagnose, characterize, and track outcomes in neurologic and psychiatric diseases. Lean more about this lab’s exciting research below.
One of the reasons Dr. Yu was initially interested in this research is the high prevalence of mental health disorders and the lack of relevant imaging tools available. “Globally, 1 in 7 people suffer from a mental or substance use disorder. Currently there are no imaging biomarkers or imaging methods available to diagnose or track therapeutic treatment response in these patients, thus making psychiatric illness one of the most intractable group of diseases worldwide,” he says.
Dr. Yu was also interested in psychiatric research because it is undergoing a major paradigm shift. Psychiatric research is moving away from clinical phenotypes towards biological psychiatry and characterizing the biological processes that drive these psychiatric disease states. “If we are to use imaging to characterize and quantify psychiatric illness, as a field, we have to have a better understanding of how neuroimaging methods (past, present, and future) quantify biological changes occurring in the brain,” he says.
The research in the lab is only getting more exciting as they continue to explore new projects. Recently, one of the graduate students in the lab authored a paper describing how neuroglial alterations in the brain, which are common in neuropsychiatric illnesses, significantly alter commonly used quantitative imaging parameters. “It was a big first step to demonstrate the limitations of the current state-of-the-art neuroimaging techniques we’re using as applied to psychiatric neuroimaging research,” says Dr. Yu.
Currently, the lab is expanding upon this work and conducting research to understand and improve neuroimaging techniques in psychiatric neuroimaging. In addition, they are investigating how the environment – such as chronic stress and the gut microbiome – affect quantitative measures of brain microstructure. Dr. Yu plans to continue this work in the future to help increase our understanding of neuropsychiatric disorders and to improve our use of neuroimaging techniques in detection and treatment.
In 2008, Associate Professor Vivek Prabhakaran, MD, PhD started the Neuroimaging Research Program. The lab uses multimodal neuroimaging tools and advanced analyses approaches to study neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to recover from and adapt to changes due to injury or aging. The lab’s core personnel are from the Departments of Radiology, Neuroradiology, and Medical Physics, but they frequently collaborate with researchers and clinicians in other departments to best tackle their neuroimaging projects. Continue reading to learn more about this lab’s exciting research.
The Neuroimaging Research Program works on a wide variety of projects, as they frequently collaborate with investigators from outside the lab to assist on their neuroimaging research. The core lab focuses on brain plasticity changes in aging and in various patient populations, including patients that have strokes, vascular lesions, brain tumors, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, and traumatic brain injuries.
Some of the lab’s biggest projects have focused on strokes. “We have looked at spontaneous recovery after stroke, as well as have developed a novel rehabilitation tool using brain computer interface technology to guide recovery after stroke,” says Dr. Prabhakaran.
The lab recently finished working on two large brain connectome studies in collaboration with the Medical College of Wisconsin. Connectome studies look to map the various neural connections in the brain, and help researchers understand what is different in a brain of a person with an injury or illness so that they can determine the best treatment options. These studies specifically looked to map the brains of epilepsy patients and patients Alzheimer’s Disease. Currently, the lab is using similar advanced neuroimaging techniques to study juvenile myoclonic epilepsy (JME) in patients between 12- and 20-years old.
There are many interesting projects in process in the lab. One research focus is mapping neural substrates involved in cognitive processes, such as working memory and reasoning, and validating these brain maps using different patient populations, such as stroke patients. Brain mapping identifies structures involved in language, memory, vision, and sensorimotor processes so that clinicians avoid these areas during treatment.
The lab is also developing tools to help with brain mapping. One of the tools they are working on is fMRI/DTI, which is used for brain mapping prior to surgery for brain tumors, vascular lesions, and epilepsy. The tool is being developed for clinical use. The lab is also researching fMRI/TMS for validation of brain mapping and fMRI/EEG for seizure localization.
Dr. Prabhakaran hopes to expand on these current research projects in the future. “Our future projects will focus on characterizing the stroke connectome and more stroke rehabilitation studies, as well as intervention studies to improve memory in older patients at risk for dementia. We will utilize multimodal neuroimaging and advanced neuroimaging analyses for all these projects,” he says.
In addition, the lab will keep fostering projects with external investigators conducting neuroimaging research. “We continue to provide support to other groups interested in using neuroimaging tools to study various topics from traumatic brain injury, delirium, migraine, Zika virus,” says Dr. Prabhakaran.
One of the things that makes the Neuroimaging Research Program unique is the various backgrounds of the researchers involved. “We are a rather diverse group including scientists, a postdoc, and several grad students of different nationalities. The grad students come from different educational backgrounds, such as biomedical and electrical engineering, medical physics, neuroscience, and psychology. This diversity adds new experiences and perspectives to our research,” says Veena Nair, PhD, Senior Scientist in the lab.
Learn more about the lab’s current research at: https://radiology.wisc.edu/research/research-labs-and-groups/neuroimaging-research-program/
Associate Professor Allison Grayev, MD was selected as one of the 2021 Dean’s Teaching Award recipients. This award recognizes excellence and innovation in medical education. The recipients awarded have demonstrated a creative approach to medical education, high teaching effectiveness, and sustained dedication to improving student learning. Dr. Grayev will be presented with the award during a virtual award ceremony on Medical Education Day, which this year is on May 27th.
Dr. Grayev is humbled to have won this prestigious award. “Winning this award is a recognition of the support received from the anatomy team and my colleagues in radiology, allowing me to design and implement new radiology content both during the Forward curriculum roll out and a pandemic. I hope to impart the importance of radiology to all medical students with the goal of creating future clinicians that understand and respect our role in patient care,” she says.
Congratulations Dr. Grayev, and thank you for your continued dedication to our medical students!