The primary aim of the Developmental Neuroimaging Core is to serve the interdisciplinary and translational research needs and goals of the DDRC. Advances in human and animal neuroimaging techniques provide the unique ability to gain insight into the neural circuitry and mechanisms underlying cognition, behavior and neural development in typically developing individuals and those with neurodevelopmental disorders. The strengths of in vivo neuroimaging techniques become particularly evident when included in longitudinal study designs that are particularly well suited for understanding the trajectories of developmental disorders. Neuroimaging studies offer the additional possibility of teasing apart the heterogeneity in complex, behaviorally-defined neurodevelopmental disorders, by providing insights into potential brain phenotypes for these conditions. Even more advanced methods are available for imaging the brain in animals. Genetic studies of neurodevelopmental disorders have led to the identification of a number of disease susceptibility genes and genetic engineering approaches have enabled the creation of genetically altered cells and animals (mice). Invivo multiphoton imaging of these animal and cellular models provides a unique avenue to study distinct aspects of nervous system development and function relevant to neurodevelopmental disorders. While conventional confocal microscopy can be used for high-resolution imaging of fluorescent labeling in fixed tissue, multiphoton laser imaging enables visualization and quantification of XFP filled neurons, glia, and axons in brain slices, or intact brains. Novel scanner technology and acquisition technology has also enabled the study of brain development in animal models via MRI, specifically for non-human primates and rodents. In 2002, the Developmental Neuroimaging Core (DNC) was established in response to the ever-increasing demand for structural and dynamic neuroimaging in humans and animals, and confocal and multiphoton imaging in animals. The DNC is of central importance to the research efforts of the DDRC. Our mission was to create a translational developmental neuroimaging core that would integrate science and research across cellular and systems levels of investigations, and facilitate interdisciplinary collaborations to address the needs of our DDRC investigators (Figure 1). Acquisition of data using magnetic resonance imaging and high-resolution microscopy, and the subsequent image analysis capacity necessary to analyze such data, requires a level of investment beyond the means of most individual investigators. Furthermore, this capacity can only be used fully with the assistance of a team of research scientists with extensive training and established expertise in the range of techniques required for modern neuroimaging approaches. To realize this mission, the core has been specifically configured to promote translational science and to forge interdisciplinary collaborations. During the past 5 years, the image analysis and tool development expertise of investigators in the MRI component of the DNC (codirected by Drs. Belger and Styner), and the cellular imaging expertise and infrastructure of the CMI component (co-directed by Drs. Polleux and Peterson), combined with the extensive expertise in image processing and graphics in computer science, have led to three major accomplishments: ? Translational neuroimaging research has flourished: The confocal and multiphoton components and the MRI components have developed and implemented new image processing tools for studying neurodevelopmental mechanisms from the cellular to the systemic level. As such, the DNC provides support for the development and implementation of imaging and image analysis methods that bridge research at the cellular level with research at the systems level, as applied to the studies of neurodevelopmental mechanisms and processes in humans, primates, rodents, and drosophila. ? Interdisciplinary collaborations have been forged between basic scientists, clinicians and computer scientists;integrating skills and expertise across disciplines and between previously divergent areas of science and scientists. ? Groundbreaking tool developments and research advances have been made in the imaging of early brain development. This core has been structured to satisfy the criteria for the development and organization of cores described in the Introductory Overview. As such, the core services are of critical importance to the maximum number of investigators representing cutting-edge, high-quality scientific practice. The core services are cost-effective, as they provide access to unique computational resources and personnel expertise not available through other campus resources and that would be prohibitively expensive for individual DDRC investigators to develop or support through their own research grants. The DNC advances and promotes interdisciplinary and translational research, consistent with the mission of the Center. This Core further leverages existing University resources by partnering with other relevant Centers/Departments with key relationships to the DDRC (e.g., UNCNC, Psychiatry, Radiology, BRIG). In addition to providing research services, this core has a generative role: it creates new imaging methods, knowledge and image analysis tools otherwise not available to investigators in the Center, such as automated methods for diffusion tensor imaging based analysis, subcortical structure segmentation and cortical thickness analysis for both human and animal brain MRI data, from birth to age 4. This generative role is facilitated by the close interactions between the computer scientists, neuroanatomists and clinical researchers associated with the DNC. By providing support to both human and animal imaging studies this Core integrates methods within and across cores, to produce a whole that is substantially greater than the sum of the individual parts. The core integrates the expertise of clinical imaging researchers, statistical analysts, MR physicists, computer scientists, neuroanatomists and behavioral researchers, for the conduct of human neuroimaging. It further integrates image processing expertise available for human in vivo image analysis, for application to multiphoton/confocal microscopy. Finally, the DNC cost-effectively extends existing resources and improves research quality, by providing training (e.g.. training in image processing software for neuroimaging etc.) to DDRC investigators and laboratory staff.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Center Core Grants (P30)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZHD1-MRG-C)
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University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill
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