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Keynote Talk 2

Principles of quantitative magnetic resonance imaging and relevance to clinical applications

Claudia A.M Gandini Wheeler-Kingshott, PhD


In this lecture I will present how Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) can be used for assessing health and disease of brain tissue by measuring properties of the brain in a magnetic field. 

The learning objectives of the lecture will be to 1) understand why MRI is clinically important and what makes MRI so powerful compared to other imaging techniques; 2) understand what do we mean by quantitative MRI and biophysically meaningful feature extraction from MRI scans; 3) to assess how we can use MRI for brain mictrostructure, function and physiology properties assessment; 4) to evaluate challenges to clinical translation and generatability and finally 5) to discuss new frontiers and limits of MRI.

In particular, I will explain how we can use sensitivity to water diffusion in tissue can help us assessing tissue microstructure integrity and properties. Exploiting the sensitivity of MRI to changes in magnetic susceptibility associated to blood oxygenation status during brain function, we can detect areas of functional activations and resting state networks. As example of using MRI to assess physiological properties of brain tissue I will present sodium imaging and sodium ion concentration quantification. This is really far from clinical adoption but could have great impact if technical challenges are met.

 Examples of clinical applications will be presented to make the lecture more practical, including in multiple sclerosis (Toschi et al, Neuroscience, 2019), neurodegeneration (Castellazzi et al, Frontiers in Neuroscience, 2014) and stroke (Särkämö et al. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 2014).

Discussion of emerging areas of development go from the use of high field human scanners (e.g. 7T), to going beyond what we already know and find ways to challenge our approach to study design, to multi-modal applications for example to understand brain dynamics and obviously to big data analysis using artificial intelligence approaches.

Bio sketch

Claudia AM Gandini Wheeler-Kingshott is professor of magnetic resonance physics at the University College London Institute of Neurology (UCL IoN, London, UK) and has gained international recognition for her ground-breaking research on translational MRI to study microstructural and functional properties of the central nervous system (CNS). She has developed highly-innovative brain and spinal cord imaging techniques, published in seminal research articles placing her in a leading position world-wide as a prominent MR physicists in neurology. Graduated in Solid State Physics at the University of Pavia in 1994, she moved to the UK where she achieved her PhD in MR Physics at the University of Surrey. In 1999 she joined the NMR Research Unit, Queen Square Multiple Sclerosis Centre at the UCL IoN where she based her academic career. Here, she soon developed the ZOOM technique for diffusion imaging of the spinal cord, now recognised as a key step change in spinal cord imaging. Learning to balance well family and working life, she strived to establish her track record, developing national and international collaborations always with the aim of promoting quantitative imaging biomarkers of the CNS and their translation to the clinics. In this context, Claudia’s group works on implementing multi-modal imaging to understand mechanisms of normal and pathological brain and spinal cord, including microstructural techniques, functional MRI, spectroscopy and sodium imaging.  Recent work sees Claudia involved in promoting also cross-fertilisation between fields and across scales because she believes that MRI cannot unleash its true potential unless we cross bridges towards other biophysical disciplines.

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