The general scientific aim is to bring advanced physiological or multi-modal methods into clinical research based on physiological insight. Senior researchers at the FIU have for more than 15 years investigated neuroscience and neural diseases using MR and functional MR.
Early investigation focussed at multiple sclerosis plaques using MRI and MRS and developed new methods in order to measure blood brain permeability, neuronal integrity and white matter structure. A major research area involves the factors underpinning the BOLD effect, as well as its correlation with neuronal events. This has been studied by e.g. the effect of changing CO2 or O2 tension of inspired air, and recently by the use of simultaneous MRI and EEG measurements.
Methodological development of techniques in order to measure brain perfusion with T2* or T1 contrast based method and arterial spin labelling are continuously in focus as part of the research. Specialised approaches to the analysis of white matter lesions have also been implemented. These techniques have widespread applications in basic neuroscience, and are relevant to the study of the aging or demented brain.
Additionally, functional heart studies with T1 based perfusion using Gadolinium-DTPA and calcium-ion channel imaging using Mn-DPDP have been developed.
The Functional Imaging Unit (FIU) was established in 2004 at Glostrup Hospital (now Rigshospitalet), initiated by several clinical and diagnostic departments:
- Department of Neurology
- Department of Neurophysiology
- Department of Neurosurgery
- Section of neuropediatrics
- Department of Radiology
- Department of Clinical Physiology and Nuclear Medicine
The unit was promoted by the director of the hospital. The initiative was governed by a strong need for bringing advanced functional MRI into ongoing research, primarily comprising neuroscience.
A position as a consultant and professor in MR technology was created at the hospital in order to build up the necessary MR research infrastructure. The financial foundation was provided by the above mentioned clinical departments and the hospital administration. In addition the Department of Radiology created a position as MR physicist and a position as MR technologist in order to boost this new strategic research area.
Professor Henrik BW Larsson, MD, DMSc, was offered the position as consultant, and Adam E Hansen, PhD, was offered the position as physicist. An additional specialist in MRI (Egill Rostrup, MSc, MD, DMSc) was employed in September 2007. Thus three senior research scientists in permanent positions are at disposition.
Raimo Joensuu replaced Adam as MR physicist in august 2012.
The basic equipment is a Philips, Achieva Magnetic Resonance scanner, operating at a field strength of 3 tesla, and equipped with the full package for neuroanatomical and functional investigation as well as a package for body imaging (heart, abdomen and muscular-skeletal imaging).
The Eloquence platform housing the Eprime system for audio-visual stimulation and subject feedback inside the MR scanner together with the IFIS system providing the necessary trigger and synchronisation hardware between stimulus presentation and imaging, have been installed. Post processing of functional and structural data is performed using among other programs FSL and in-house developed software.
An infrastructure has been set up to handle transfer and store the huge amounts of data generated in functional studies. Other techniques implemented include a system for electrical somatosensory stimulation and thermal trigeminal stimulation inside the scanner. A setup for drug delivery of pharmaceutical substances and inhalation of gases, e.g. CO2, inside the MR scanner is implemented, together with appropriate physiological monitoring devices.
The most notable new equipment is the EEG system from Brain Products, allowing us to perform simultaneous EEG and BOLD imaging. A special MRI compatible eyetracking device is implemented allowing us to monitor the gaze during investigation of visual function or if commands is delivered as visual instruction in a BOLD investigation.
A Clinical Science Agreement between Department of Radiology and Philips Medical Systems allows for data export for own processing, access to research features on scanner, facilities for advanced sequence development and programming and support from Philips Clinical Science network.
In addition to grants specific to the group, PhD students from various clinical research groups are connected or involved in the MR research. Finally, three highly skilled technologists are available for research purposes.
The chief of the Functional Imaging Unit is Henrik BW Larsson and co-leaders are Raimo Joensuu and Egill Rostrup. Monthly meetings for all involved in the research activities take place, in addition to smaller focus oriented weekly meetings.