Perfusion MRI

Due to the intrinsic coupling of neural activity and cerebral blood flow, we are developing MRI perfusion methods to study longitudinal changes in brain function caused by chronic disease 1–3. We are currently applying this approach to the study of chronic pain to understand the functional neuroplasticity effects of clinically relevant pain. Chronic pain is a major health issue in Canada and is often difficult to manage effectively, causing enormous emotional and financial burdens on patients, caregivers and the healthcare system. Understanding how pain alters brain function could help develop more effective treatments that target specific dysfunctional neural networks.

The versatility of MRI enables perfusion methods to be combined with other imaging techniques, such as high-resolution structural MRI to assess brain atrophy 4. The concept of multi-parametric imaging is perhaps best exampled by the emergence of hybrid PET/MRI systems that offer the ability to combine structural, functional (MRI) and molecular (PET) imaging. This combination opens exciting research avenues in neuroscience because we can now explore the link between how brain function is altered by changes in the underlying neurochemistry/physiology.

1.        Owen, D. G., Clarke, C. F., Ganapathy, S., Prato, F. S. & St Lawrence, K. S. Using perfusion MRI to measure the dynamic changes in neural activation associated with tonic muscular pain. Pain 148, 375–86 (2010).

2.        Owen, D. G. et al. Measuring the neural response to continuous intramuscular infusion of hypertonic saline by perfusion MRI. J. Magn. Reson. Imaging 35, 669–77 (2012).

3.        Wu, W.-C., St Lawrence, K. S., Licht, D. J. & Wang, D. J. J. Quantification issues in arterial spin labeling perfusion magnetic resonance imaging. Top. Magn. Reson. Imaging 21, 65–73 (2010).

4.        Anazodo, U. C., Shoemaker, J. K., Suskin, N. & St Lawrence, K. S. An investigation of changes in regional gray matter volume in cardiovascular disease patients, pre and post cardiovascular rehabilitation. NeuroImage. Clin. 3, 388–95 (2013). 


Simultaneous whole-brain imaging of cerebral blood flow and glucose metabolism acquired on a Siemens 3T Biograph® mMR
K. St. Lawrence
Functional MRI / Biomedical Optics
F.S. Prato
medical physics


D. Moulin
K. Shoemaker
J. Wang
C. Clarke
Future Directions
Key Accomplishments

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