Interdisciplinary Initiatives Program Round 4 – 2008

Sean Mackey, Anesthesiology
Gary Glover, Radiology
Brian Knutson, Psychology
Ian Gotlib, Psychology
Allan Reiss, Psychiatry

In this research program we have proposed to develop and refine real time functional magnetic resonance imaging (rtfMRI) methods for monitoring and controlling regions of brain activation. We then proposed to apply the technology of rtfMRI to train individuals to modulate activation in specific brain structures that have been found in previous research to be implicated in depression, addiction, cognition, and pain.  Attaining control over specific neural processes is the primary goal of neuropharmacology and neurostimulation. Training people to modulate specific neural processes has the potential to enable them to have greater control over the resulting behavior, cognition, or associated disease. Our group was the first to investigate whether it is possible for subjects to learn to control activation in a target brain region using rtfMRI. In addition, we have demonstrated that patients with chronic pain can learn to control a specific region of their brain associated with pain processing and this led to a corresponding decrease in their pain. We proposed to extend this research through development of improved rtfMRI techniques. We also proposed to apply these techniques to a diverse set of patient populations to further characterize the neural systems involved in specific brain disorders and to develop a novel therapy.

This exciting and unique Bio-X collaboration brings together expertise in the methodology of functional neuroimaging (Gary Glover) with expertise in neurosciences related to brain-related disorders that have substantial social impact: pain (Sean Mackey), depression (Ian Gotlib), cognitive dysfunction (Allan Reiss), and addiction (Brian Knutson). The proposed studies could not be accomplished without the integration of expertise across all of these laboratories. Key issues we are addressing in this collaboration are: 1) development of an improved rtfMRI system to control multiple distributed brain regions; 2) refinement of motion correction for rtfMRI of deep brain structures; 3) characterization of specific neural systems that are involved in several important clinical conditions; and 4) development of rtfMRI as a clinical therapeutic tool. Uniquely, this multidisciplinary collaboration has promoted cross-fertilization of ideas and methods that have strengthened both the breadth and depth of the overall project.