The neuroimaging research mission is to improve the ability to diagnose pediatric neurologic diseases and to advance our understanding of how diseases affect the brain. We also hope to use neuroimaging to track measurable indicators that predict neurodevelopment, cognition and behavior in children.
Physicians and neuropsychologists use neuroimaging to diagnose and treat brain injuries and disorders. Neuroimaging includes various types of brain scans, including images of the anatomical structure such as CT scans and MRIs. It also includes functional and metabolic imaging of how the brain responds to tasks or stimuli, measuring blood flow in the brain and brain metabolism.
TCH neuroradiology uses neuroimaging to diagnose and treat disorders of the brain, spine, neck and central and peripheral nervous system in children. We specialize in non-invasive imaging technology, which allows us to study whole-brain maps of structural and functional brain connections.
Our world-renowned team of experts bring decades of clinical and research leadership in the diagnostic imaging of neurologic diseases, including brain tumors, brain malformations, spine disease, stroke and other vascular disorders.
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Texas Children’s Hospital leads in cutting-edge neuro-radiological technologies
Traditionally, the field of neuroradiology was largely focused on the macro-anatomy of the brain and the nervous system and employed techniques such as CT scans, MRIs and X-rays to identify the underlying cause of patient’s symptoms. While extremely valuable in the diagnosis of many common neurological conditions, these macro-level imaging techniques are not sufficient to identify cognitive and behavioral disorders such as autism that result from malfunctioning brain circuits or due to connectivity issues between different functional centers in a patient’s brain.
The neuro-radiology research group(NrRG) at Texas Children’s Hospital is at the forefront of developing and leveraging several new and emerging technologies such as diffusor tensor imaging (DTI) and connectomics for research, and clinical diagnostic and interventional purposes to map functional and structural connectivity of brain networks asynchronously as well as in real-time to guide neuro-surgeries to improve patient outcomes.
“When I joined Texas Children’s, my vision was to build a world-class clinically-integrated, high-end quantitative neuro-radiology laboratory focused not just on the gross anatomy but also on functional networks,” Dr. Thierry Huisman, radiologist-in-chief at Texas Children’s and professor at Baylor College of Medicine said. “Together with Dr. Avner Meoded, a highly-qualified neuro-radiologist, our team has forged collaborations with several leading neuroscientists, computational biologists and other multi-disciplinary experts in several Texas Medical Center institutions including the Baylor College of Medicine and the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute (NRI). Recently, we also joined the consortium of physicians and researchers at the NRI who are active in the Undiagnosed Diseases Network, so we can employ emerging technologies to diagnose previously undiagnosed patients as well as to develop novel tools to explore rare neurodevelopmental conditions and neurodegenerative diseases. Being a top children’s hospital in North America, our neurologists receive large volume of referrals for patients with complex neurological conditions and so, they closely collaborate with our team to provide accurate diagnosis and treatment options for these patients. Finally, utilizing and developing new state-of-the-art quantitative neuro-radiology technologies to push the frontiers of knowledge in pediatric neurological diseases is an expensive and time-consuming mission that requires strong and committed support from the hospital’s executive leadership and generous funding. We are fortunate that all these critical factors have come together to position Texas Children’s Hospital as a leader in neuroscience research, neurology and cutting-edge neuro-radiology technologies.”
Fig1: Advanced quantitative neuroimaging techniques can be used in every stage of the clinical lifecycle
“One of our initial goals was to develop and leverage advanced neuroimaging techniques such as DTI and connectomics, which are typically used for neuroscience research, for clinical purposes including diagnosis, real-time guide during neurosurgeries and in pre-surgical risk assessment, to help our physicians, patients and their families make informed decisions. Within the past two years, we have achieved that to a large extent in our hospital. For instance, DTI is used for routine monitoring of every pediatric patient who comes in for a neuro-radiological evaluation for behavioral disorders such as autism, epilepsy, hypoxic-ischemic brain injury in neonates, rare congenital neurological disorders, cerebellar and movement disorders, inborn errors of metabolism, brain tumors and many others. Connectomics is being currently rolled out for specific conditions like epilepsy, tuberous sclerosis complex-related autism spectrum disorders and others,” Meoded said.
Fig 2: Quantitative neuroimaging improve outcomes for a wide range of neurological conditions
“Most neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases are chronic but they may have acute episodes followed by progressive decline over time. Using advanced neuroimaging tools to diagnose these slow-moving conditions accurately early on, helps doctors and surgeons decide on the best course of clinical and surgical management, guides the direction of our future research efforts to find novel treatments and finally, also helps families understand and plan for their child’s ongoing and potential future medical and caregiving needs. Instead of waiting until the entire forest or a large part of the forest (brain) is in on fire, these advanced neuroimaging tools alert us as soon as the first tree catches fire, so we can try and limit the damage,” Huisman concluded.