Research opportunities for fellows, residents and medical students are available at the Center for Clinical Imaging Research (CCIR) and Biomedical Magnetic Resonance Laboratory, Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology, under the direction of Tammie Benzinger, MD, PhD, director of Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Advanced Imaging Techniques.
A current research project at the CCIR is investigating the use of diffusion tensor imaging MRI to pinpoint the location of a peripheral nerve injury and whether the injury is primarily to the nerve itself (axon).
This technology is already used to assess nerve injuries in the central nervous system (CNS) by measuring the movement of water to produce neural tract images. Water tends to move most freely in the long direction of the axon, and one of the earliest signs of nerve damage is the loss of that longitudinal water movement, which is a biomarker for axonal injury. In the CNS, this movement is predictive of a very poor outcome.
Diffusion tensor imaging MRI also can be used to detect destruction of the myelin coating around the nerve, which indicates better potential for recovery in the CNS.
The goal of the CCIR is to determine whether diffusion tensor imaging MRI can be used to assess peripheral nerve injuries. If successful, this technology would enable surgeons to determine early on if there is hope for spontaneous recovery or whether surgical intervention will be necessary.
Benzinger's other research is focused on using directional diffusivity measurements derived from diffusion tensor imaging to measure axonal and myelin damage in pediatric and adult demyelination, dysmyelinating diseases and traumatic brain injury (TBI), and as a function of aging. Diseases under study include multiple sclerosis (MS), acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), adrenoleukodystrophy, Krabbeâ€™s disease, Pelizaeus-Merzbacherâ€™s disease and head trauma. In addition, Benzinger combines advanced neuromagnetic resonance techniques, such as diffusion tensor imaging and spectroscopy, and positron emission tomography (PET) to study interactions between normal aging, Alzheimerâ€™s disease, depression and delirium in older adults.