New York NeuroImaging Centre will help to uncover the secrets of the brain

York 29 May 2005One of Europe's most important centres for the study of the human brain was officially opened at the University of York. The GBP 5,2 million York NeuroImaging Centre has been opened by the Minister for Science and Innovation, Lord Sainsbury of Turville. The centre, on York Science Park, boasts two of the most powerful brain scanners in the United Kingdom, which cost a total of GBP 3,5 million, and produce visually stunning images, allowing detailed study of a huge range of brain functions and conditions. Guests at the ceremony on Friday 27 May, will have the chance to tour the centre and see the scanners in action. There will also be a series of presentations on imaging and the centre's links with the commercial and health sector.

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Guests at the ceremony on Friday 27 May, 2005 received the chance to tour the centre and see the scanners in action. There were also a series of presentations on imaging and the centre's links with the commercial and health sector.

The University's Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Cantor stated: "This Centre places York in the forefront of the study of the human brain, not only in the United Kingdom but worldwide." Lord Sainsbury stated: "The Government's aim is to make the United Kingdom the best place in the world for science. World-class facilities like the NeuroImaging Centre will help make this a reality."

The Centre's GBP 1,1 million MagnetoEncephaloGraphic (MEG) scanner, the first of its kind in Europe, provides a non-invasive way of mapping the magnetic fields created by electrical activity in the brain. Its GBP 2,4 million high field Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine has twice the power of a typical hospital device.

The 248-channel whole head MEG scanner is located in a room constructed of specially developed alloys to exclude all background magnetic fields. Its use in research is connected with perception, language, memory, emotion and motor tasks, and is being used by staff and students in the University's Department of Psychology, which is recognised as one of the two best psychology centres in the country.

York NeuroImaging Centre is a Department of Psychology initiative, in partnership with the University's departments of Chemistry, Electronic Engineering, Computer Science, Health Sciences, Biology and Physics as well as the Hull York Medical School (HYMS).

The MEG scanner can be used to locate abnormal brain activity associated with conditions such as epilepsy, and its design allows it to be used in all age groups. The MEG device, developed by 4D Neuroimaging in California, forms the focus of an international centre for studying brain function, and provides precise data on the timing of neural activity.

The 3 Tesla Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner, manufactured by GE Medical Systems, allows high spatial resolution structural and chemical investigations of the whole body as well as studies of blood flow to the brain.

Images from the two scanners, which have been operating since February 2005, are analysed using the most powerful cluster of Apple G5 computers in the United Kingdom. The Centre's computers are fully Grid-enabled. The Centre is devising research programmes for studies of autism, epilepsy, dementia and stroke and is actively encouraging collaborative projects with the local and regional National Health Service (NHS).

Professor Gary Green, Director of the York Neuroimaging Centre, stated: "The unique combination of these particular MRI and MEG scanners in one site provides unparalleled facilities for the study of the human brain in health and disease. Within a month of their commissioning both scanners have delivered new insights into how the brain achieves its remarkable abilities. The next few years will offer exciting prospects for the Centre's research workers."

Professor Green is determined that the Centre should be devoted to more than advanced scientific research and clinical investigation. He wants to make sure it has a public face and already school parties have visited the centre to see science in action.

"We recently showed schoolchildren how they can do a virtual dissection of the brain to explain what brain anatomy looks like. We have also used the MEG scanner to read people's minds by measuring brainwaves to show visitors which parts of the brain are active during perception. The reaction of the school parties has been fantastic and we hope it may inspire young people to become involved in science", he stated.

There have also been a series of open houses for clinicians, including radiologists, neurologists and psychologists, from across the region. Eventually, the centre will also provide free accommodation for meetings of patient support groups such as Alzheimer's, Epilepsy and Autism.

York NeuroImaging Centre is one of nearly 20 spin-out companies established by the University of York. York Science Park is a 21-acre park linked to the University of York and housing more than 75 companies which have research, teaching and business links with the University. With more than 100.000 square feet of specialist facilities, it is the first UK Science Park to offer dedicated IT, bio and knowledge based incubation space supporting a wide range of innovative companies in fields including pharmaceuticals, life sciences, computer science, electronics and health care.

The GBP 5,2 million York NeuroImaging Centre has been established at York Science Park's Biocentre with the help of a GBP 1,2 million grant from the Wolfson Foundation. York was recognised as one of Britain's "Science Cities" in Chancellor Gordon Brown's pre-budget statement on 2 December 2004. This confirmed the Government's continued investment in science and technology to drive forward the United Kingdom's position in the global economy. A GBP 100 million technology investment programme is to be channelled over the next 10 years to promote "Science Cities" for the North, starting with Manchester, Newcastle and York.


Leslie Versweyveld

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