Research

Cognitiv


Cognitive Neuroscience

The Cognitive Neuroscience group has several research foci. Our main aim is discovering the temporal characteristics of interareal interactions in brain networks that may offer additional insight into brain function compared to the study of spatial characteristics of brain activity alone. Particularly higher cognitive functions like speech, language, and executive control require the interaction between multiple brain regions. We study how complex behavior is related to the spatio-temporal organization of brain networks with a special emphasis on hemispheric lateralization, sensorimotor integration, and circadian rhythms. The projects use data from functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging, magnetoencephalography, electrocorticography, intracranial electroencephalography, and interventions like direct cortical or subcortical electrical stimulation. Studies on people who stutter and patients with Parkinson’s disease, brain tumor, or epilepsy complement investigations in healthy participants. If you would like to learn more about our work and team, please click here.


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Movement2




Movement Disorders

The main research focus of our group is the investigation of brain microstructure (and function) in various movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, atypical Parkinsonism and dystonia. To this end, we use multimodal quantitative imaging techniques like T1-, T2-, T2*- and proton density mapping which allow the assessment of important tissue properties as, for example, the iron and water content and the degree of myelination.  With these methods we seek to define disease specific patterns of tissue change and to link them with the patients’ clinical phenotype. One goal is to improve our general pathomechanistic understanding of the disease and to entangle the structural correlates of specific motor or non-motor symptoms frequently observed in movement disorders (e.g. akinesia or cognitive decline). A second goal is the development of image based biomarkers which may be used for clinical differential diagnosis of movement disorders and, also, for the monitoring of disease progression in longitudinal clinical studies. Another important thematic focus is the development and exploration of novel imaging techniques, e.g. methods that facilitate the acquisition of quantitative MRI parameters in the clinical setting. This takes place in close cooperation with the core structure of the BIC. 


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Brain

Multiple Sclerosis

Our group applies quantitative MRI (qMRI) techniques in patients with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) to take insight into microstructural changes in tissues outside of MS lesions which appear normal on conventional MRI.  We could demonstrate that cortical T1 prolongation and PD increase are present in early MS stages, reflecting changes in cortical architecture (Gracien et al., Eur Rad, 2016). Another study characterized cortical pathology by applying a multi-parametric qMRI protocol including T1, proton density (PD) and magnetization transfer ratio (MTR) mapping in an RRMS patient group, which covered a broad range of disability severity and disease duration, and revealed a relationship between cortical T1 relaxation time and the clinical status (Gracien et al., JMRI, 2016). We quantified cortical demyelination at early MS stages with T2 relaxometry, providing a method for cortical assessment as an alternative to the technically more difficult T1 and PD mapping (Gracien et al., NMR Biomed, 2016).  A study assessing WM pathology has shown tissue remodeling in accordance with inflammatory activity (Reitz et al., Brain Imaging Behav., 2016). In secondary progressive MS (SPMS) global neurodegeneration gains significance which can be hardly quantified with conventional MRI. We demonstrated that qMRI methods are promising candidates for the assessment of neurodegeneration in relationship to the degree of disability in SPMS (Gracien et al., Plos One, 2016). Furthermore it could be shown that a new method for PD mapping in MS which utilizes T1 mapping and the so called Fatouros equation for the estimation of the receive coil sensitivity profile provides more reliable results than the standard method especially in peripheral brain regions (Gracien et al., Magma, 2016).

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Neuroncology



Neuro-Oncology


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Epilepsy

The Epilepsy Imaging Group is a new research group associated with the Epilepsy Center Rhein-Main.
Our target is the multimodal assessment of neural activity in epilepsy and health. We combine structural MR imaging with functional methods, especially simultaneous EEG-fMRI and MEG. Combining these methods with intracranial EEG data, we aim to identify epileptogenic networks in focal and generalized epilepsies. Analysis tools comprise traditional generalized linear models and connectivity analyses as well as time-frequency and information-theoretic techniques.
In many epilepsy patients, conventional MRI is not able to identify structural anomalies, even though surface EEG may clearly show a focus of increased electrical excitability. We therefore apply state-of-the-art quantitative MRI techniques to improve the detection of presumed structural lesions.
Projects are carried out in collaboration with the Departments of Neuroradiology and Neurosurgery and the MEG laboratory of the Goethe University.

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Vascular



Vascular diseases

The research focus of our interdisciplinary group (Department of Neurology and Institute of Neuroradiology, group leader PD Dr. med. Marlies Wagner) is the characterization of cerebral structural as well as autoregulatory and metabolic changes in patients with acute ischemic stroke (metabolic characterization of tissue-at-risk) and chronic cerebrovascular pathologies such as carotid occlusive disease and small vessel disease. The main imaging techniques applied by our group comprise quantitative (q)MR imaging techniques, perfusion-weighted imaging (PWI), diffusion-tensor imaging (DTI) and MR spectroscopy (MRS). Among these methods, we are particularly interested in advanced quantitative imaging techniques (T2’ imaging) that are sensitive to paramagnetic tissue components (BOLD effect) to assess focal and global changes of cerebral oxygen metabolism. Our superordinate objective is to relate our imaging findings to clinical features in order to provide imaging tools for the risk stratification regarding recurrent stroke and to identify imaging biomarkers to estimate the risk of vascular cognitive decline in patients with cerebrovascular disease. The figure shows a decrease of T2’ within the territory of the left middle cerebral artery (MCA) (C), presumably reflecting an increased cerebral oxygen extraction fraction due to compromised perfusion (A, B) in a patient with high-grade MCA stenosis.


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