The Nola Thompson Centre for Advanced Imaging carries out multimodal neuroimaging to investigate mental health disorders and disease.
This multimodal approach advances understanding of the developing adolescent brain, neurodegeneration and ageing, and the efficacy of interventions in mental health disorders.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
The MRI is an extremely versatile imaging system that can be operated in many modes to generate different images. This allows researchers to:
- Understand how the brain is functionally and structurally wired in health and disease
- Identify neuro biomarkers for early disease detection
- Quantify brain activation during cognitive tasks
- Understand how physical health impacts our mental health
Different types of imaging
MRI is a non-ionizing imaging technique that allows researchers to image all parts of the body, in this case the brain.
MRI utilises the natural magnetic properties of water molecules to generate signal and therefore build up a 3D map of all the different tissues within the body. The human brain is made up of~83% water and therefore provides a lot of MRI signal which we can measure to determine tissue properties, such as volume, metabolite concentration, structure and function.
MRI is a non-invasive technology. It requires no contrasting agents or dyes to be injected. Nor does it use radiation like x-rays and CT scans. No health risks have been associated with repeat exposure to MRIs.
Some people may experience claustrophobia or anxiety in the MRI scanner. The MRI radiographer is trained to deal with these situations. Imaging can be discontinued at any time.
It is important that certain metals do not enter the MRI. All individual's undertake a MRI checklist to ensure it is safe for them to be imaged. Researchers discuss this with an individual and/or their parent/caregiver prior to any imaging.
This type of MRI imaging provides great contrast between the grey matter (the information processing part of the brain) and white matter (the information highway that connects regions of the brain, sending messages between them). Researchers use this imaging to quantify cortical thickness and subcortical volumes for each individual so that they can look for changes in brain volume with disease/disorder.
Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) is a type of MRI imaging that allows researchers to plot the white matter fibres in the brain. White matter fibres are the information highway that connects regions of the brain and sends messages between them. DTI imaging provides a detailed map of the structural architecture of an individual’s brain and how regions in the brain are connected. Researchers use these images to determine difference in brain white matter (structural connectivity) between health and disease/disorder.
Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS) is a type of MRI imaging that quantifies chemicals within the brain which are important for normal cognitive function. Researchers use MRS to identify chemical biomarkers of disorder and track changes in chemical make-up of the brain with treatment interventions.
Functional MRI (fMRI) is a type of MRI imaging allowing researchers to map brain activation at rest or when performing a task. Different regions of the brain work together in networks to perform cognitive tasks. Researchers use fMRI imaging to further understanding of how different regions of the brain communicate and work together to function effectively.
Neuroimaging research opportunities
Opportunities are available for Honours and PhD research projects. Research will employ cutting-edge neuroimaging methods combined with quantitative, data-driven modelling and analyses for:
- functional and structural connectivity characterisation
- biomarker profiling
- explicating mechanisms that underpin psychiatric conditions
Research contact: Prof Jim Lagopoulos, Director
Electroencephalography (EEG) measures the brain’s electrical activity or ‘oscillations’, which represent the synchronised activity over a network of neurons (brain cells).
EEG can tell researchers about how our brains behave during a resting state (idle) and how our brains respond when required to undertake a specific task (process information).
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)
TMS is a mild form of brain stimulation. Magnetic fields are used to stimulate a localised area of the brain cortex. It aims to alter brain activity by increasing cortical neuronal firing, which over time changes activity in connected brain regions. TMS treatment is provided daily for over a period of two to nine weeks.
TMS has successfully treated treatment-resistant depression, and current research is looking at TMS effectiveness in the treatment of other conditions, including chronic pain.
This safe, non-invasive treatment is provided as a clinical service at the Thompson Institute.