Measuring Metabolites to Understand and Treat Brain Injury
It is estimated that by age 10, a quarter of Canadian children will have had a concussion, and 10 to 15 per cent of them will have persistent symptoms. Neuroimaging (or brain imaging) has provided great insights into brain development and conditions such as concussions. But there is still a gap in our knowledge about the underlying neurochemistry of the brain and how it changes in brain injury and therapy. Dr. Ashley Harris wants to fill that gap.
As Canada Research Chair in Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy in Brain Injury, Harris will develop and apply magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to understand pediatric brain injury and how to treat it. MRS uses a conventional magnetic resonance (MRI) scanner, but measures brain metabolites (or neurochemicals). It is a non-invasive way to study the human brain in vivo.
Harris and her research team will work to improve our ability to measure these neurochemicals—for example, by making measurements more specific. She and her team will then apply these methods to study brain injury. They will also study an emerging therapy known as transcranial direct current stimulation, a non-invasive method of modulating brain activity after injury.
Understanding the neurochemical changes that occur with injuries such as concussions is a necessary step in treating patients effectively. Harris hopes that by shedding light on how new therapies work, we will be able to apply them more effectively, optimizing the intervention and targeting appropriate patients.