Leiden and Amsterdam to collaborate on brain research

23 September 2010

Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC) and the Academy's Spinoza Centre for Neuroimaging (Amsterdam) intend combining their knowledge in research on the brain.

Prof. Andrew Webb, director of the C.J. Gorter Centre for High Field Magnetic Resonance (LUMC), stresses the rapid improvements in the quality of the images generated by these MRI scanners using a very powerful magnetic field. "When we installed the equipment in 2007," says Prof. Webb, "we did not know how good the images would be, but it soon turned out that the new scans will revolutionise our understanding of the brain." The collaboration with the parties that support the Spinoza Centre is a way of finding answers to fundamental questions regarding how the brain works, using the latest techniques. "This involves such things as the communication between the various layers of grey matter within the brain, which forms the basis for how we process information," says Prof. Webb. The Academy's This will mainly involve advanced 7 Tesla MRI scanners, which make new developments possible in this field. The two parties today signed a partnership agreement.

Spinoza Centre is itself the result of combining forces: it is in fact a unique partnership between the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience (NIN-KNAW), the University of Amsterdam, VU University Amsterdam, Amsterdam Academic Medical Centre, and the VU University Medical Centre, with support from the City of Amsterdam. Prof. Theo Mulder, the Academy's Director of Research, says that the development of such knowledge partnerships is extremely important for promoting Dutch research.

The first 7 Tesla MRI scanner in the Benelux was installed at the LUMC in 2007. In the past three years, the LUMC's team of MR physicists have been able to utilise technical developments to greatly enhance the quality of the images generated by this exceptionally powerful MRI scanner, thus opening up new avenues in brain research. It is now possible, for example, for researchers to generate images of the various layers of the cerebral cortex and of tiny blood vessels in the brain. In the context of medical research, patients at the LUMC have recently begun to be scanned with the 7 Tesla system and the results are very promising. The big improvements in quality have also led to national interest in the application of 7 Tesla MRI scanners in brain research.

The Spinoza Centre will also be acquiring a 7 Tesla MRI scanner. The centre focuses, in the broad sense, on the relationship between the brain and behaviour. Prof. Mulder explains: "This involves such things as how the brain recovers after damage, cognitive processes in learning and decision-making, and visual perception." The LUMC will make its expertise in MR physics available so that the Spinoza Centre can utilise the latest techniques of analysis. The Spinoza Centre's MR physicists will be given a part-time position at the LUMC's C.J. Gorter Centre, while scientists from the Gorter Centre will take part in scientific research in Amsterdam, thus maximising the effects of collaboration.