LFMI was founded in 1999 with the major goal of developing imaging techniques that provide anatomical, functional and molecular information about tissue function. The specific emphasis is on advancing Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) techniques for analysis of the brain. MRI has grown into a critical imaging tool for anatomical characterization of normal and pathophysiological states in human and animal models. Over the past ten years progress in sensitizing MRI to parameters related to regional blood flow has opened up the area of functional MRI (fMRI). FMRI studies are having a large impact on understanding the localization of neural function in the brain. Scientists in LFMI played an early role in developing fMRI techniques and presently are pushing these techniques to higher spatial and temporal resolution. A feature of this work is to develop the highest magnetic field MRI scanners as possible to increase signal to noise and contrast to noise in fMRI studies. Presently LFMI is developing a 7 Tesla/ 90 cm bore size MRI for humans and an 11.7T/31 cm bore size MRI for animals.
A basic assumption in LFMI is that to understand the brain it will be important to image the whole cascade of events related to the processes that support neural function. FMRI techniques are able to localize activity, however, there are many other processes important for normal function of the brain. These include metabolism to support function, neuronal connections, gene expression, calcium dynamics, cell movements, receptor and neurotransmitter function, etc LFMI is interested in extending and developing techniques that enable imaging of these events in human and animal brains. While these studies rely heavily on MRI, other modalities are used as well, such as optical imaging and electrophysiological techniques. The ability to image specific molecular and cellular processes are part of the rapidly growing field of molecular imaging. Techniques developed are expected to impact the ability to diagnosis and stage a variety of diseases such as neurological disorders, cognitive disorders and cancers.
Other Interests in LFMI
In addition to development of specific functional and molecular imaging techniques, projects within LFMI touch on a range of interests from the basic design of MRI detectors and imaging sequences to biological interests in mapping brain function , regulation of microcirculation, and cellular energy metabolism. Indeed, another bias of LFMI is that some of the best progress in imaging occurs when we are confronted with specific biological problems. Collaborations exist with a number of investigators interested in mapping brain function and imaging a number of diseases. Some of this work is done using MRI resources available in the NIH MRI Research Facility (NMRF) and in the Functional Neuroimaging Facility (FNIF). Both of these facilities make MRI resources available to NIH and members of LFMI play a major role in these resources. Work by members of LFMI has relied on using mouse models that make use of molecular genetic and proteomic techniques. Indeed there is rapidly growing interest in using radiological imaging techniques to analyze transgenic and knockout mice. LFMI staff is playing a major role in the development of the NIH Mouse Imaging Facility (MIF) that contains MRI, CT, ultrasound, and some optical imaging techniques for use by the NIH community. Recently, work in LFMI is aimd at the marmoset for MRI study of the brain. Due to the large range of problems MRI has impacted, research in LFMI is broad and diverse. Details of specific research interests can be found in information given with the specific Sections and People.
Organization of LFMI
LFMI is organized in a fashion typical to most of NIH. Presently, there are independent sections that share significant intellectual and physical resources. Jeff Duyn heads the Advanced Imaging Section and Alan Koretsky heads the Functional and Molecular Metabolism Section. Dr. Koretsky also serves as Chief of the LFMI. In addition, there are Core Staff that offer scientific, engineering, information technology, and administrative expertise to the members of LFMI. LFMI is in the intramural research program of the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders. Physically most of LFMI is located in the NIH In Vivo NMR Center, a multi-institutional building dedicated to advancing MRI located in Building 10. In addition to LFMI, the NIH NMR Center contains active research programs from the Laboratory of Cardiac Energetics, NHLBI, the Laboratory of Diagnostic Radiology Research, CC, the Section on Functional Imaging Methods, Laboratory of Brain and Cognition, NIMH, and the Stroke Diagnostic and Therapeutics Section in the Stroke Branch, NINDS. These groups have strong interactions and a large range of imaging resources.