Researchers discover a whole new dimension of...

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Researchers discover a whole new dimension of brain imagingNow the space & time of brain activity underlying mental events can be studied LONDON, ON (Dec. 2, 1998) -- Today, Dr. Ravi Menon announces the discovery of amazing new ways to use fMRI technology to study the specific location of brain activation, and the time it takes for the brain to process information and respond. This process, called "Mental Chronometry", will have a major impact on many areas of medical research. A Robarts Research Institute scientist and an Associate Professor at The University of Western Ontario,* Dr. Menon, along with his colleagues, has uncovered a number of important findings since the 4-Tesla Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) Facility for human research was officially opened on September 1996 in The A.M. Cuddy Wing of The John P. Robarts Research Institute. Mental events take time. Even a simple task such as seeing an object involves milliseconds, from the time light enters the eye, until we conciously perceive the object. Psychologists often study the time it takes people to react to events and make decisions, in the hope of understanding the underlying brain mechanisms. Physicians researching debilitating neurological diseases such as ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease), Multiple Sclerosis, vision and motor problems are also looking at how the timing in the brain goes wrong, and what parts of the brain are involved, so they can design new treatments and cures. ALS specialist, Dr. Michael Strong of the Neurodegeneration Research Group at Robarts and a Neurologist at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) comments: "These new techniques have already allowed us to detect changes due to ALS within regions of the brain previously not known to be involved in the disease--which radically changes our approach to understanding how it occurs." Dr. Menon, who is pioneering fMRI research in Canada, explains: "The work I've done with Joseph Gati, our Operational Research Assistant, and graduate student, David Luknowsky, promises to reveal a more direct way of looking at the sequencing of brain mechanisms that are involved in seeing and reacting to our world. When this information was published recently in an issue of the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", our colleagues around the globe were amazed at the accuracy of our data." By scanning individuals in the fMRI while they play a specialized video game--complete with joystick--the group has been able to identify the areas of the brain that are involved with processing visual information, as well as the motor areas involved with moving the joystick, and record the time it takes the brain to respond.** * in the Departments of Medical Biophysics and Diagnostic Radiology & Nuclear Medicine**this work was supported by the Mcdonnell-Pew Program in Cognitive Neurosciences and the Medical Research Council of Canada. Dr. Mark Poznansky, President & Scientific Director of Robarts says: "fMRI is a non-invasive brain imaging technique that identifies brain activity. Up until now, fMRI has been used to tell us WHERE activity occurred. Dr. Menon's group has now added another dimension, and can tell WHEN too." Tony Dagnone, President and CEO of London Health Sciences Centre, says: "No one has ever tried to do this before, and it's really quite exciting to be able to create dynamic maps of how the brain processes information." "This is wonderfully creative and important work. It enhances our reputation as an international leader in Neuroscience research," says Bill Bridger, Vice President Research, The University of Western Ontario. This state-of-the-art fMRI facility is the first of its kind in Canada, and the sixth of its kind in the world. Modifications made by Dr. Menon's group have allowed it to perform sucessfully when others have had shut-downs. So far, the technology has been used in London to study vision, Schizophrenia, Mutliple Sclerosis, ALS, Epilepsy, speech, motor/movement control and for neurosurgical planning for people with tumors. Dr. Menon's group has scanned over 1,000 people including patients and normal volunteers. Robarts Research Institute was officially opened in 1986 and is Canada's only privately operated medical research facility. The Institute is comprised of some 365 highly qualified individuals, including scientists, hospital clinicians and technical specialists. They are actively researching many of the major causes of death and disability. For more information, please contact:Irene Posliff, Communications Officer, The John P. Robarts Research Institute, (519) 663-3021