The human brain undergoes rapid sequences of physiological and anatomical changes during the period immediately after birth as the cortex forms and networks of correlated functional activation appear. The importance of this period is emphasised by the fact that brain injuries during this time invariably result in later neurodisability. There is thus a clear need for tools that can accurately study the human brain’s structure and function during this critical stage of development.
Since its inception, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) has transformed clinical care and neuroscience research, with sensitivity further enhanced with the use of ultra-high field (7 Tesla (T) or higher) scanners. 7T MRI is especially beneficial in enhancing diagnosis and understanding of diseases which affect the cortex and is particularly effective at enhancing functional MRI contrast (fMRI) used for studying patterns of brain activation. The aim of this project is to use fMRI to study activity in the developing brains of newborn infants at unprecedented high resolution, building on King’s pioneering work as one of only two centres worldwide performing this type of work.
This project aims to build on this early work, producing highly individual and sensitive measures of brain activation in this interesting but vulnerable population. It would suit a student with mathematical/computational science background who will be trained in programming MRI scanners and image analysis. In years 1-2 they will develop high data-rate acquisition methods (both 2D simultaneous multi-slice and 3D imaging) suitable for studying whole brain connectivity and layer-specific activation mapping with the very small fields of view required for imaging of infants. The second objective (years 2-3) will explore motion correction and patient handling methods that are necessary for imaging unsedated infants. These methods will then be deployed for systematic task-based and resting state fMRI studies on a cohort of infants (years 3-4).