Developing MRI Technology to Study Changes in the Architecture of the In Vivo Human Cerebral Cortex
Dr. Jennifer McNab
CIHR Research Fellow
Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Harvard Medical School
Thursday, January 5, 2012
HP 4351

My scientific interests are centered on developing MRI technology that will interrogate the architecture of the in vivo human cerebral cortex at an unprecedented level of detail. With this technology I aim to provide non-invasive MRI signatures of cortical (re)organization that will transform our understanding of brain function development, aging, plasticity, neuronal disease etiology and progression. My approach to probing cortical architecture is through the development of advanced diffusion-weighted (DW) MRI technology. DW-MRI is sensitive to tissue microstructure including: membranes, myelin, macromolecules and packing geometry. Due to the folded geometry of the cortex, measurements within and between cortical layers require an acquisition with an isotropic voxel grid and an analysis that is oriented with the local reference frame derived from the geometry of the cortical ribbon. In this talk I will discuss several technological developments aimed at bring in vivo human DW-MRI to the laminar and columnar level in the cerebral cortex including: laminar analysis techniques, the construction of close-fitting radio-frequency array coils and strong magnetic gradient coils as well as the design of unique MRI pulse-sequence encoding schemes and protocols. I will present in vivo human results of a surface-based analysis of diffusion orientation in the primary somatosensory and motor cortices and some recent acquisitions of the first ever in vivo human axon diameter measurements.