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UCI receives major grant to help create national methods and standards for functional brain imaging

Irvine, Calif., March 13, 2006 -- A nationwide consortium of researchers, led by UC Irvine brain imaging specialist Dr. Steven Potkin, has received a $24.3 million grant from the NIH's National Center for Research Resources to standardize functional magnetic resonance imaging and help make large-scale studies on brain disease and illness possible for the first time.

The five-year grant marks the next phase of the Biomedical Informatics Research Network (BIRN), which was formed in 2001 to build the technology and methods needed for researchers to share brain scan data. UCI is the lead site for the consortium grant, which is the second-largest in the campus' history.

This new effort will focus on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), a method of magnetic scanning that reveals detailed pictures of brain activity corresponding to the performance of a wide array of mental tasks and the effects of chemicals, such as hormones and drugs. fMRI is a unique research tool, as it allows researchers to ascertain subtleties in the process of thought.

"There are around 7,000 locations in the U.S. right now doing MRI scanning, yet there is no way to combine the data in a useful way from these sites," said Potkin, the Robert R. Sprague Director of the Brain Imaging Center and professor of psychiatry and human behavior at UCI. "Our effort gives researchers from around the country the tools necessary to do multi-site imaging studies for the first time."

Although brain imaging technology has generated remarkable progress in understanding how mental and neurological diseases develop, it has been nearly impossible for one laboratory to share and compare findings with other labs. A lack of coordinated networks for sharing data, plus limitations in compatible imaging and computer hardware and software, have isolated scientists. This isolation has barred researchers from collaborative efforts that could provide the large database of brain images need
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Contact: Tom Vasich
tmvasich@uci.edu
949-824-6455
University of California - Irvine
13-Mar-2006


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