The goal of the lab is to understand the neural endophenotype of diseases using functional and molecular imaging. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an excellent tool for in vivo imaging of brain structure, function, connectivity and metabolism. Together with molecular information by positron emission tomography (PET) and optical imaging, they could be biomarkers for characterising and tracking pathophysiological progression of diseases in vivo. These imaging biomarkers will be validated in rodent (especially transgenic mouse) models of brain disorders and translated to human to facilitate the understanding of mechanism, early detection, better prognosis and treatment development.
Especially, we focus on developing novel methods for imaging neural activity, connectivity and transmission. BOLD and perfusion-based functional MRI has been widely used to detect brain activation responding to task/stimulation or neural synchrony (aka, functional connectivity) in resting-state. We have successfully established arterial spin labeling (ASL) and resting-state fMRI in rats and mice to detect neuroplasticity and drug effects. Combined with optogenetic manipulation, we can map the entire activity and connectivity of specific neural pathway. To further understand the underlying neurotransmission change, magnetic resonance spectroscopy will be used for measuring GABA and glutamate. New methods based on chemical exchange saturation transfer (CEST) will be developed to allow imaging glucose metabolism and neurotransmission. In addition, functional contrast agents such as manganese will be explored to image Ca2+ dependent and neuronal connectivity. These techniques will be validated and compared using PET tracers, electrophysiology and optical imaging to have comprehensive view of the structural, functional and molecular process in the brain. We will apply these techniques to understand the functional connectomic signatures of neurodegenerative diseases and psychiatric disorders, as well as their relationship with genetics, neurotransmission, electrophysiology, behaviour and other disease phenotypes.