Structure and connections
Brain structure and brain connections are a key area of research at the UMC Utrecht Brain Center. They are regarded as relevant endophenotypes in the selected areas of disease. In cerebrovascular, neurodevelopmental and neurological diseases, structural and functional investigations can give insight in the nature and severity of cerebral abnormalities, possibly conveying prognostic information and can be used to explore the effectiveness of therapeutic intervention.
There is continuous need for better spatial and temporal resolution of the available techniques. Thus improving our understanding of the biological underpinnings of observed changes, as well as a large capacity for reliable longitudinal scanning of cohorts for population imaging.
The UMC Utrecht Brain Center offers an excellent environment to ensure state-of-the-art neuroimaging facility. A strong collaboration with the imaging division, and the availability of multiple 1.5 and 3T clinical MRI scanners, a research-dedicated 3T (to be installed) and 7T human MRI scanner as well as a 9.4T animal scanner, provide sound infrastructure for structural and functional brain imaging. Furthermore, plans are being developed for a modern preclinical imaging center that enables state-of-the-art multimodal neuroimaging in an experimental setting. Excellent high performance computing facilities ensure rapid data processing with state-of-the art algorithms. In addition to (f)MRI approaches, other techniques like PET, CT, EEG and TMS are used to obtain further insight in brain areas essential for specific cognitive and sensorimotor domains.
Unique to Utrecht is the possibility to implant intra-cranial recording grids, which simultaneously record signals from multiple sites on the cortex. These signals are used to detect epileptic foci, but also to develop brain-computer interfaces as a future treatment strategy.
Of particular interest is the application of graph analytical methods for the reconstruction and examination of structural and functional connectivity in brain circuits, in both the healthy and diseased brain.
The UMC Utrecht Brain Center has extensive expertise for translational neuroscience approaches focused on neuronal connectivity and structure, including animal models, microscopy and an induced pluripotent stem cell facility.