UCI's Brain Imaging Center chosen to help advance nation's Roadmap for Medical Research


NIH support to help improve how imaging technology can find cures for brain illnesses

Irvine, Calif., Oct. 5, 2004 -- With two new grants totaling $2.7 million, the Brain Imaging Center at UC Irvine's College of Medicine will be working with the National Institutes of Health to help advance the federal agency's ambitious "Roadmap for Medical Research" program.

The NIH Roadmap is a series of far-reaching initiatives designed to transform the nation's medical research capabilities and speed the movement of research discoveries from the bench to the bedside. UCI's Brain Imaging Center was chosen to help that effort with funding to participate in the National Alliance for Medical Imaging Computing effort and to establish the Transdisciplinary Imaging Genetics Center at UCI. Each grant provides funding for three years.

"We are so pleased to have the opportunity to combine the efforts of experts from several fields to tackle the mysteries of illnesses such as schizophrenia," said Dr. Steven G. Potkin, professor of psychiatry and the Robert R. Sprague Director of the Brain Imaging Center. "Working with experts from the U.S. and Canada, we will combine the most sophisticated brain imaging techniques and analysis methods."

As part of National Alliance for Medical Imaging Computing (NAMIC), a federally funded consortium, involving Harvard, Dartmouth, MIT, Georgia Tech, University of Utah, University of North Carolina, UCLA, UC San Diego and the University of Toronto, Potkin will lead a UCI research team using the combined power of fMRI, PET and DTI imaging techniques to reveal abnormal brain networks in schizophrenia. These new methods will allow researchers to simultaneously measure the structure, function and connections between important brain areas. The study's goal is to identify the underlying biology of schizophrenia, in order to understand the origins of this brain disease, and develop more effective treatments.

Schizophrenia effects 1 percent of the population worldwide and is a devastating illness that strikes just people enter their most productive adult years. Current treatments decrease these symptoms, but few patients who suffer from schizophrenia can return to fully productive lives. UCI investigators on this study include computer scientist Padhraic Smyth, neuroanatomist James Fallon, cognitive scientist Jessica Turner and Hal Stern, professor and chair of statistics.

With the second grant, Potkin and his team will establish the Transdisciplinary Imaging Genetics Center, an exploratory center that will help forge the new research discipline of imaging genetics. Specialists in brain imaging (Turner), brain circuitry (Fallon), data mining (Smyth), statistics (Stern) and virtual reality and visualization (Falco Kuester, engineering researcher) from UCI and geneticists from the University of Toronto (Drs. James Kennedy and Fabio Macciardi) will integrate brain imaging data with the genetic information revealed by the human genome project to understand the hereditary nature of normal brain function and mental illnesses.

If the aims of this new center are achieved, Potkin said, the emerging field of imaging genetics will be positioned to enhance understanding of the biologically complex problem of mental illness, individual differences and the interplay between genetics, environment and brain function. NCI exploratory centers support novel interdisciplinary research strategies to solve significant biomedical problems. If successful, these centers can receive further funding for the development of an interdisciplinary research consortium.

"It is exciting to be part of creating a new field that brings together so many experts from very different fields, especially when it offers the promise of understanding an individual's brain function as an interaction of genetics and experience," Potkin said.

In addition, the Brain Imaging Center will be sponsoring the First International Symposium on Imaging Genetics at UCI Jan. 17-18, 2005. For more information, see: www.imaginggenetics.uci.edu.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.