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NMR Research Unit

About us

We are a research team based at the Institute of Neurology in London. Our work mainly focuses on the study of multiple sclerosis (MS) with a subsidiary interest in neuropsychiatric diseases such as schizophrenia and sometimes also in other neurological conditions. We use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to obtain detailed information about the structure and function of the nervous system - this helps us to understand how MS affects the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves, and we do this with a view to being better able to diagnose, monitor and treat. We work closely with our colleagues at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, and members of our team also offers clinical services there. We are supported by a programme grant from the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and have recently been awarded funds to replace our long-serving 1.5T MRI scanner with a more powerful 3T instrument. We are part of the Department of Neuroinflammation which, in addition to our MRI studies, undertakes laboratory based research into the pathogenic mechanisms underlying neuroinflammatory conditions, in particular MS. We work in collaboration with other research groups within the United Kingdom and abroad, and are active participants in the European MRI in MS research network (MAGNIMS).

Clinical research

Clinical research is under the general direction of Professors David Miller, Maria Ron and Alan Thompson. Our MS research programme seeks more reliable diagnostic and prognostic features of the disease; a better understanding of its underlying pathology and the mechanisms of disability and recovery; and development of sensitive measures to help detect effective new therapies that prevent or reverse disability. One section of the Unit provides centralised image analysis of MRI data obtained in trials of potential new disease modifying agents in MS. Our neuropsychiatric programme explores the underlying structural and functional basis of diseases such as bipolar affective disorder and schizophrenia.

Physics research

Our physics research programme is directed by Dr Claudia Wheeler-Kingshott, in collaboration with Professors Xavier Golay and Tarek Yousry. Our clinical research demands ever more specific and robust MRI techniques, and physics research within the group aims to deliver this.

The physics team's current primary interests are in quantitative magnetic resonance imaging of the central nervous system; in particular brain, spinal cord and optic nerve. The team will also start developing techniques for measuring the MR signal from nuclei other than the hydrogen, thanks to the multi-nuclear capabilities of the new 3T Philips scanner. Of particular interest will be the development of sodium imaging in the brain and phosphorus spectroscopy.

Some of the techniques that we continuously develop are diffusion tensor imaging (a technique that reveals aspects of tissue structure not visible using standard structural MRI scans), magnetisation transfer imaging (which indirectly helps us to measure the myelin content of tissues), perfusion imaging (assessing brain tissue blood flow) and spectroscopy. Directly related to this, the team also undertake research into image processing techniques such as automated tissue segmentation and MRI histogram analysis. Many members of the team are also affiliated to the Institute of Neurology's Division of Neuroradiology and Neurophysics, which is headed by Professor Yousry.

How to find us

NMR Research Unit 
UCL Institute of Neurology 
Queen Square House 
Queen Square 
London WC1N 3BG UK  
Telephone: +44 (0)20 3448 4771 - Fax +44 (0)20 7278 5616

Our MRI scanner is on the ground floor of Queen Square House, which is in the North East corner of Queen Square (and is the only tower block on the square).

NMR Research Unit scanner telephone:Telephone:+44 (0)203 448 3458

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The group continues to publish its work regularly, and most of our research papers can be found by searching PubMed (this is a direct link to a saved search string) or by looking at a list of publications maintained by the Rockefeller Medical Library.

PhD studentships

Vacancies for PhD students are usually advertised on the Institute's research opportunities page, or other pages relating to the Institute's Departments. More general information about studying at the Institute can be found on the Institute's education page.

This page was last modified on 25th June 2009 by Kelvin Hunter

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