Oxford Centre for Functional MRI of the Brain (FMRIB)

Oxford Centre for Functional MRI of the Brain (FMRIB)

This article is the first of a planned series providing updates on the work of the Trust’s endowed post-holders. This month, we’re looking at the Herbert Dunhill Professorship of Neuroimaging, based at the University of Oxford.

The Chair is currently held by Professor Peter Jezzard[1] who has been working in the area of biomedical imaging for over 25 years. Based at the Oxford Centre for Functional MRI of the Brain (FMRIB) (which possesses 3 Tesla and 7 Tesla research scanners), Professor Jezzard leads the MRI Physics research effort at the FMRIB Centre jointly with Professor Karla Miller and their team collaborates widely across the University, the John Radcliffe Hospital, where the Centre is based, and beyond.

An example of the team’s collaboration is its work with the Acute Stroke Research Group[2] with which it has been developing methods to measure tissue pH using chemical exchange saturation transfer (CEST). Having published the first paper showing CEST in acute stroke patients[3], it has recently been focusing on achieving better slice coverage of the technique so that it might be more clinically applicable.

7.0 Tesla Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine

7.0 Tesla Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine

In support of its work in clinical applicability, the University, with the Oxford University Hospitals Trust, has recently been successful in its bid to renew funding support for the Oxford University Biomedical Research Centre from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), worth over £100M. One of the constituent research themes of the OU-BRC, co-led by Professors Jezzard, Neubauer (an imaging cardiologist), Gleeson (a radiologist) and Noble (former Head of the Institute of Biomedical Engineering and an expert in ultrasound imaging) includes a focus on translation of Professor Jezzard’s Physics Group methods to practice in the NHS.

In addition to this work, the group’s current priorities include:

  • using imaging to characterize (and therefore help diagnose and treat) cerebrovascular disease. This includes large vessel disease (for example leading to stroke) as well as small vessel disease (implicated in vascular dementia), and includes a specific interest in collateral flow in the diseased brain;
  • continuing, through its UK7T Network partnership, to pioneer high-resolution 7 Tesla protocols that will have applications in various disease areas including Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease (the former in partnership with Dementias Platform UK, of which Oxford forms a part, and the latter in partnership with the Oxford Parkinson’s Disease Centre);
  • continuing to develop optimized methods for measuring brain metabolites and neurotransmitter levels using magnetic resonance spectroscopy.

Professor Jezzard has also been active in ensuring that there is a new generation of research specialists to take work in biomedical imaging forward, and to this end he directs the EPSRC and MRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Biomedical Imaging. This major 5-cohort-intake grant supports the training of at least 10 students per year, with a first year that includes a substantial proportion of classroom-based teaching, followed by 3 research years and culminating in a doctoral thesis. In 2015/16, 12 students were trained, three of whom elected to undertake their DPhil studies in the FMRIB Centre Physics Group. The 2016/17 intake was 14 students, 12 of whom are registered with the University of Oxford and 2 of whom will be registered at the University of Nottingham (after their combined first year in Oxford).  Professor Jezzard also organized a successful Biomedical Imaging Summer School, including participants from all the UK’s four EPSRC-funded Centres for Doctoral Training (namely Oxford/Nottingham, UCL, KCL/Imperial and Edinburgh/Strathclyde), with over 50 students attending, providing essential networking and development opportunities.

Read more of Professor Jezzard’s work

[1] Professor Jezzard is also a former President of the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, which is the premier scientific society in this field.  He is also Methods Director in the University’s Acute Vascular Imaging Centre (AVIC).

[2] In 2006, the Dunhill Medical Trust provided a programme grant of £830k to assist the launch of the Oxford Stroke Research Programme

[3] G.W. Harston, Y.K. Tee, N. Blockley, T.W. Okell, S. Thandeswaran, G. Shaya, F. Sheerin, M. Cellerini, S. Payne, P. Jezzard, M. Chappell and J. Kennedy, “Identifying the Ischaemic Penumbra using pH-Weighted Magnetic Resonance Imaging”, Brain, 138, 36-42 (2015)