2012 – 2017 Strategic Grant
Translational humane research programme using MEG for non-invasive studies of the human brain
Professor Paul Furlong, Dr Gareth Barnes and Dr Caroline Witton
Professor Furlong is Professor of Clinical Neuroimaging and MEG Laboratory Director at the Neurosciences Research Unit, Aston University, Birmingham.
Dr Gareth Barnes and Dr Caroline Witton are both Senior Lecturers and members of the Neuroimaging Research Group at Aston University.
The Dr Hadwen Trust is providing strategic support to Aston Neurosciences Research Institute for the maintenance and running costs of the Aston MEG (magnetoencephalography) system for the next five years. During this time MEG will be used in a programme of humane research-related studies.
Much current neurophysiology research is carried out by using invasive techniques in animals (non-human primates, cats and rodents). One major reason for this reliance on animal research is the paucity of alternative methods to measure neural activity in the human brain. The Neuroimaging Research Group at Aston is exploring neuropharmaceutical and neurophysiological alternatives to animal research in the study of brain, behaviour and pharmacokinetics.
At present approximately 80% of neurophysiology research is animal based and extrapolated to humans. If these studies could be carried out with human subjects there would be a number of benefits: the replacement of animal experiments; the direct application to human health and disease; and no need to extrapolate from animal ‘models’ to humans would result in higher quality science.
MEG is a completely harmless, non-invasive brain imaging technique. MEG has potential to replace animal experimentation because it yields direct neurophysiological measurements in human subjects, with 1,000 times the temporal resolution of fMRI, and a spatial scale (a large number of measurements from the whole brain) not possible with single unit recordings.
The Aston team also aims to create a Humane Research and Training Centre to provide essential training for neuroscientists, and provide pilot data for scientists who would otherwise only be able to engage with animal experiments