This award provides funds to permit the University of Washington to acquire a 3T magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner for basic-science brain imaging research. This instrument will be housed in a dedicated MRI research facility in the Health Sciences building where it will support a primary group of over 30 basic-science MRI users at UW whose ongoing research success depends critically on access to a 3T MRI scanner. These multidisciplinary researchers originate from multiple different departments that include Psychology, Speech and Hearing Science, Music, Computer Science, Physiology and Biophysics, Linguistics, Neurosurgery, Neurology, Bioengineering and Radiology. Thus, this 3T facility will provide campus-wide support to neuroscience researchers in the Schools of the Arts and Sciences, Education, Engineering, Medicine, the Health Sciences, the School of Public Health and the Graduate School (Psychology). In addition to the current MR researchers, there are many other neuroscientists at UW who have expressed interest in using the 3T facility for their research when available. Thus, addition of a 3T MRI facility will expand the functional brain MRI research efforts at UW in the future. It will also be a resource accessible to researchers from other regional institutions.
Functional brain imaging (fMRI) is an important new research tool used to define how the brain operates to control motor and cognitive tasks and how these functions may be affected by abnormal development or disease. The 3T MRI will be utilized for many fMRI studies some of which include visual system analysis to understand how the brain operates to simultaneously process diverse types of visual input that includes spatial information (location) as well as feature information (color, shape, motion, direction, etc) to interpret a visual scene. Studies of fMRI involving language and cognition will investigate how the brain codes successes and errors during trial-and-error learning to see whether these neural coding events can be used to predict how well people learn. Neuroimaging using structural MRI and MR spectroscopy (MRS) to measure brain metabolite changes will be used to compare brains of young children with normal development to those with Autism. Quantitative MRI/MRS analyses of grey matter and regional volumetric and chemical changes over time (age 3 to age 10) will be correlated with behavioral developmental changes to address questions regarding the time course of brain development and its relationship to typical and atypical behavior.
The University of Washington is strongly committed to interdisciplinary science and education, as evidenced by strong cross-campus research ties, interdisciplinary training programs such as the Graduate Program in Neurobiology and Behavior, and discipline-spanning research centers such as the Integrated Brain Imaging Center (IBIC), Institute for Learning and Brain Science (ILABS), Virginia Merrill Bloedel Hearing Research Center (VMBHRC), Center on Human Development and Disability (CHDD), and Washington National Primate Research Center (WaNPRC). The proposed 3T facility will operate in this tradition, providing new opportunities not only for disciplinary and cross-disciplinary research, but also for graduate and post-graduate training, educational outreach, recruitment of new faculty in neuroimaging, and involvement by female students and researchers, and those from underrepresented groups.