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.