Magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy of the brain
The research group shows a particular interest in brain. It focusses on the spatially resolved representation of neuronal activity, the interplay of individual brain areas and the plasticity of structural connections in the brain. It also researches the how structures, functions and metabolic activities in the brain correlate with age as a result of inflammatory or degenerative diseases or change under the influence of narcotics and other medications.
In comparison to the computer tomography, the classical MRI is a relatively slow recording technique. Movement caused by breathing or the heartbeat, can have a significant effect on the quality of the images. Avoiding to move while holding one’s breath is often unreasonable, especially for patients with cardiac or pulmonary diseases, and in animal experiments usually only possible under anesthesia. It is known that many biologically interesting processes take place in the seconds and milliseconds range. Promising approaches provide radial recording techniques and new methods of image reconstruction.
The essential contrast mechanisms of the classic MRI are based on changes in the water content of the tissues and on changes in the relaxation times of the hydrogen nuclei, both of which are initially rather unspecific properties. The aim of this area of research is to increase the sensitivity and specificity of an MRI and MRS. With the help of suitable animal models we are working towards the further development of new contrast mechanisms. These include imaging methods based on diffusion (net movement of atoms and molecules), magnetization transfer (interactions between molecules), chemical exchange saturation transfer (a technique that allows the organism to represent the distribution of specific molecules), magnetic susceptibility and "intelligent" contrast agents (which can for example represent the presence of certain enzymes, temperatures or the ph value inside the body).