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Neuroscience 499

A research project into a selected area of neuroscience. The project involves experimental design, data collection, interpretation, and analysis, written reports and oral presentations. This course will enable students to:

  • acquire the intellectual and technical skills that are characteristic of scientists
  • experience the excitement of discovery

More information about Research Projects in Neuroscience can be found on the Biomedical and Molecular Sciences website.

2019/2020 supervisors in NSCI 499:

  • Dr. David Andrew  Has taken two project students.

  • Dr. Gunnar Blohm  Has taken three project students.

  • Dr. Brian Bennett  TBD.

  • Dr. Michael Blennerhassett  TBD.

  • Dr. Nandini Deshpande  TBD.

  • Dr. Alastair Ferguson  TBD.

  • Dr. Jason Gallivan Has taken one project student.

  • Dr. Nader Ghasemlou Has taken one project student.

  • Dr. Michael Kawaja  Has taken three project students.

  • Dr. Ron Levy  Has taken one project student.

  • Dr. Alan Lomax Has taken one project student.

  • Dr. Neil Magoski  TBD.

  • Dr. Janet Menard  TBD.

  • Dr. Douglas Munoz  TBD.

  • Dr. Stephen Scott Has taken one project student.

  • Dr. Patrick Stroman  Has taken two project students

  • Dr. Gordon Boyd Has taken one project student.

  • Dr. Jagdeep Walia Has taken one project student.

  • Gavin Winston  Has taken one project student.
  • Project One Outline:

    Epilepsy is a common neurological disorder affecting 1% of the population. Around a third of patients are refractory to treatment with medication and the commonest cause of refractory focal epilepsy is hippocampal sclerosis (HS).

    The brains of patients with HS differ from healthy controls and differences can be demonstrated by measuring quantitative parameters from a specialist type of MRI brain scans known as diffusion imaging [1]. Changes in parameters such as fractional anisotropy can be identified in the affected temporal lobe and nearby areas [2], but these changes are non-specific and give limited information on the underlying biological changes.

    More advanced diffusion imaging techniques have become available that give non-invasive microstructural information on the brain in vivo [3], including a technique known as NODDI (Neurite Orientation Dispersion and Dispersion Imaging) [4].

    This project would be to compare the brains of patients with HS to healthy controls using both these more advanced techniques and older techniques to better understand the underlying microstructural changes.

    Project Title: Microstructural alterations in temporal lobe epilepsy

    Keywords: Epilepsy, Microstructure, Imaging, Hippocampal Sclerosis

    Project Goals:

  • To determine microstructural changes (e.g. neurite density, orientation dispersion) in the brains of patients with HS when compared to healthy controls
  • To compare these changes to alterations in parameters from older techniques
  • Experimental Approaches:

    The MRI data has already been collected and the target would be to analyse around 30 healthy controls and 30 patients (left HS and right HS separately). Patients would be compared to controls using 2 techniques:

    Voxel-based analysis, similar to voxel-based morphometry, as implemented in the freely available software package SPM (https://www.fil.ion.ucl.ac.uk/spm/)

  • Tract-based spatial statistics, as implemented in the freely available software package FSL (https://fsl.fmrib.ox.ac.uk/fsl/fslwiki)
  • The project would require a good degree of computer literacy and a willingness to learn these software packages and Linux.

    Impact:

    The aim is to better understand the underlying microstructural changes in patients with refractory focal epilepsy due to hippocampal sclerosis using only non-invasive imaging approaches.

    References:

    [1] Winston GP, Quant Imaging Med Surg 2012;2:254 (Pubmed ID 23289085)

    [2] Focke NK et al, Neuroimage 2008;40:728 (PMID 18261930)

    [3] Winston GP, Quant Imaging Med Surg 2015;5:279 (PMID 25853085)

    [4] Zhang H et al, Neuroimage 2012;61:1000 (PMID 22484410)

  • Second Project Outline:
  • Epilepsy is a common neurological disorder affecting 1% of the population. Around a third of patients are refractory to treatment with medication and some may be suitable for surgical treatment. However in patients with focal epilepsy, MRI brain scans appear normal in around a third. This means expensive and invasive tests are required to consider surgery [1].

    Voxel-based techniques in which individual patients are compared to groups of healthy controls may be helpful [2,3,4] but are limited by low sensitivity and specificity. However newer imaging techniques may be more sensitive [5].

    This project would be to compare the MRI brain scans of individual patients with focal epilepsy to a group of healthy controls using several different types of scan (T1, T2, FLAIR, SWI, DTI, NODDI, ASL) to determine which are most helpful.

    Supervisor: Gavin Winston, Associate Professor of Neurology, Department of Medicine & Centre for Neuroscience

    Project Title: A comparison of neuroimaging techniques to detect focal abnormalities in epilepsy

    Keywords: Epilepsy, Imaging, Surgery

    Project Goals:

  • To determine what changes are present in the MRI brain scans of patients with focal epilepsy when compared to healthy controls
  • To compare the results from different types of MRI scan
  • Experimental Approaches:

    The MRI data has already been collected and the target would be to analyse around 60 healthy controls and 60 patients. Individual patients would be compared to the group of controls using voxel-based analysis, similar to voxel-based morphometry, as implemented in the freely available software package SPM (https://www.fil.ion.ucl.ac.uk/spm/).

    The project would require a good degree of computer literacy and a willingness to learn these software packages and Linux. It could be developed subsequently using multispectral analysis [6].

    Impact:

    The aim is to improve the detection of brain abnormalities in patients with focal epilepsy and normal MRI brain scans by comparing different imaging techniques and ultimately reduce the cost of medical investigations.

    References:

    [1] Duncan JS et al, Lancet Neurol 2016;15:420 (Pubmed ID 26925532)

    [2] Focke N et al, Epilepsia 2009;50:1484 (PMID 19292759)

    [3] Martin P et al, Quant Imaging Med Surg 2015;5:188 (PMID 25853079)

    [4] Martin P et al, Epilepsia 2017;58:1653 (PMID 28745400)

    [5] Winston GP et al, Epilepsy Res 2014;108:336 (PMID 24315018)

    [6] Kotikalapudi R et al, AJNR 2018;39:2014 (PMID 30337431)