Wednesday, 09 December 2020
Experts from the University of Nottingham have received €2million in funding to develop new MRI technologies for mapping the human brain, which could open new possibilities for how certain mental health disorders are characterised, diagnosed and eventually treated.
Dr Stam Sotiropoulos, Associate Professor of Computational Neuroimaging in the School of Medicine at the University (https://spmic-uon.github.io/conilab), is the lead investigator on the programme, which has received the five-year grant from the European Research Council’s (ERC) Consolidator Grant competition.
The Neuro-Metrology programme is part of the EU’s current research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020, which is worth €655m in total. ERC Consolidator grants are aiming for Frontier, internationally leading, High-Risk/High-Gain research.
A key step towards untangling the complexity of the human brain is to understand how functionally specialised subunits are connected in the brain’s network to influence each other and produce experiences and behaviour.
MRI uniquely allows scientists to explore this and to probe how our brains are ‘organised’. The connectome, which is the comprehensive map of brain connections, is unique in every person, but there are important limitations in its personalised mapping.
This project will see Dr Sotiropoulos develop a novel algorithmic platform for brain connectivity mapping, which will establish measurement principles to allow, for the first time, quantitative and objective characterisation of the brain connectome and its individual variability.
Through a mixture of highly interdisciplinary computational and experimental research, he will develop platforms that allow accurate standardised measurements of brain connections and will link these measurements to reference standards, reflecting the population, as well as the individual.
He will subsequently tackle important representative questions that rely on the ability to capture personalised signatures of the brain architecture: in basic neuroscience, the ability to predict the neural connectivity that underpins behavioural traits; in clinical neuroscience, the ability to use normative models of connections in the population to aid subject-specific diagnosis in depression
Dr Sotiropoulos said: "I am very pleased and proud of this award from the ERC. This five-year programme grant will allow us to be at the forefront internationally in developing novel magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technologies for mapping the human brain organisation, both in the individual and the population. NEURO-METROLOGY will devise novel ways for quantitative and objective mapping of the brain connections, the pathways that mediate information flow in our brain networks that produce experiences and behaviour.
This research will therefore provide formal routes towards untangling the complexity of the human brain and offer new neuroimaging tools for characterising mental health disorders; paving the way to exciting personalised medicine approaches. It will fit seamlessly within our leading research activities in the Precision Imaging Beacon, the Sir Peter Mansfield Imaging Centre and the Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre.”
More information is available from Dr Stam Sotiropoulos at the University of Nottingham, at Stamatios.Sotiropoulos@nottingham.ac.uk
Notes to editors:
The University of Nottingham
Ranked 18th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings 2023, University of Nottingham is a founding member of Russell Group of research-intensive universities. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience, and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement.
The University is among the best universities in the UK for the strength of our research, positioned seventh for research power in the UK according to REF 2021. The birthplace of discoveries such as MRI and ibuprofen, our innovations transform lives and tackle global problems such as sustainable food supplies, ending modern slavery, developing greener transport, and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.The University is a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally - and our graduates are the second most targeted by the UK's top employers, according to The Graduate Market in 2022 report by High Fliers Research.
We lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, in partnership with Nottingham Trent University, a pioneering collaboration between the city’s two world-class institutions to improve levels of prosperity, opportunity, sustainability, health and wellbeing for residents in the city and region we are proud to call home.