The Neuroimaging Research Group is part of the Department of Neurology at the Berufsgenossenschaftlichen Universitätsklinikum Bergmannsheil (Director: Prof. Dr. M. Tegenthoff). Using a variety of imaging methods, such as functional MRI (fMRI), diffusion tensor imaging and spectroscopy we investigate the neural correlates of learning, pain chronification, as well as neurodegeneration (e.g. amyotrophic lateral sclerosis).
Motor, perceptual and semantic learning are believed to be enabled by means of neural plasticity that induces alterations in brain morphology, function and connectivity. Practicing and learning are thought to both induce and profit from neural plasticity, which can occur on different levels of neural organization ranging from synaptic plasticity to changes in complex neural circuitry. Modern brain imaging techniques such as fMRI and structural MRI (e.g. voxel-based morphometry, diffusion tensor imaging) are capable of detecting macro-changes in brain function and regional brain morphology. New developments in brain imaging now also allow the investigation of connectivity between remote brain regions contributing to the same or related tasks. Our research focuses on the exploration of neural mechanisms that underlie various types of learning such as perceptual, semantic and associative learning.
Although chronic pain states are highly prevalent, the underlying neurobiological mechanisms of pain chronification are still incompletely understood. Increasing evidence suggests that chronic pain is associated with (maladaptive) neuroplastic changes in the brain. In recent years, alterations in brain function and structure in various chronic pain states could be demonstrated. These changes are thought to reflect maladaptive neuroplasticity that contributes to both the process of pain chronification, as well as to concomitant symptoms of chronic pain patients (e.g. increased levels of depression, anxiety and dyscognition). Importantly, (partial) reversibility associated with clinical improvement has been described. In our research we try to better understand the neural mechanisms that underlie the transition from acute to chronic pain.
Certain neurological diseases are associated with a neurodegenerative process. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a heterogeneous group of syndromes characterized by progressive muscle paralysis caused by the degeneration of motor neurons in primary motor cortex, brainstem, and spinal cord. Using DTI and tractography, our research aims at investigating white matter integrity in the corticospinal tract and frontal lobe to support clinical classification of disease type and predict progression rate.