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Research Labs

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) is an advanced method for mapping brain functions using MRI scanners. MCW researchers helped pioneer the development of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of the brain in 1992, and MCW has continued to be a world leader in this field. Dr. Jeffrey Binder is chief investigator on an NIH grant to study language processing using fMRI, and also on an NIH grant to develop applications of fMRI in epilepsy surgery. The latter grant involves extensive collaborations with Dr. Wade Mueller of the Epilepsy Program and Dr. Sara Swanson of the Neuropsychology section. Dr. Binder and colleagues published the first reports on fMRI studies of auditory cortex, semantic language processing, and use of fMRI to determine language dominance.

fMRI researchers in the Department of Neurology collaborate closely with scientists from the Medical College's Biophysics Research Institute, a large academic department that has been a world leader in MR coil and pulse sequence development for fMRI.

Other faculty involved in fMRI research include Dr. Einat Liebenthal who uses simultaneous ERP and fMRI techniques to map human auditory language processes, Dr. Rutvik Desai who studies language processing, and Dr. Merav Sabri who is interested in attentional control.

The Neurology Department fMRI efforts are one component of a larger fMRI neuroscience research group at MCW that includes investigators from the Departments of Cellular Biology and Anatomy, Psychiatry, Physiology, and Radiology.

The Functional Imaging Research Center develops and maintains a state-of-the-art fMRI research infrastructure including two 3-Tesla MRI scanners dedicated full-time to human fMRI research, and a 9.4-Tesla scanner used for animal research.

Language Imaging Laboratory

The Language Imaging Laboratory, directed by Jeffrey Binder, MD, conducts basic research on normal and impaired language functions using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), event-related potentials (ERP), magnetoencephalography (MEG), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), and structural MRI. Clinical research focuses on new methods for language mapping prior to brain surgery and on understanding recovery from aphasia after stroke. Lab members have had continuous funding from the NIH since 1994 and have produced pioneering studies on the neurobiological basis of language.

Current Language Imaging Laboratory Research

Magnetoencephalography (MEG)

Magnetoencephalography is a technique that measures the magnetic fields produced by electrical activity in neurons from the human brain. The Froedtert and Medical College's MEG program started in the Fall of 2008 and is dedicated to both clinical and research studies initiated by physicians and all investigators willing to obtain functional images of the brain 'in action', with millisecond time resolution.

MEG is used to evaluate patients from our Department and others, to map the brain and its functions prior to surgery and to develop innovative brain imaging methods for basic cognitive neuroscience and neuropsychology. Manoj Raghavan, MD, PhD, is the Medical Director and Zhimin Li, PhD is the technical manager of the MEG program.

Neuromodulation Research Lab

Dr. Christopher Butson leads a lab that focuses on neuromodulation therapy. Neuromodulation is the therapeutic alteration of activity in the nervous system by means of electromagnetic devices. Examples of this type of therapy include deep brain stimulation (DBS) for movement disorders, cortical and vagal nerve stimulation for epilepsy, and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) for depression. The theory of operation behind this type of therapy is that electrical currents are induced in the brain either via implanted electrodes or magnetic induction. The induced current impinges on nearby anatomical areas and leads to a functional response. In the best case this results in good therapeutic improvement for the patient, with minimal side effects. In well-selected patients who are treated by an experienced clinical team, the improvement from this type of therapy can be dramatic. For example, debilitating Parkinsonian tremor can be completely arrested by DBS in a matter of seconds. However, for patients who do not respond well to this type of therapy there are few tools available to understand how to better treat them.

In contrast to medications that have a well-defined dose-response relationship, the concept of a dose does not yet exist in neuromodulation therapy. Most of the guidance that is available on how to prescribe this therapy is based on empirical evidence derived from trial and error. Unfortunately, collecting data in this way does not lend itself to developing evidence-based guidelines on how to apply therapies that are known to be acutely sensitive to changes in stimulation location and parameters such as frequency, pulse width, and amplitude. To address these problems, the Butson lab uses a combination of patient studies and patient-specific computational models to predict and visualize the effects of neuromodulation therapy. This approach can provide insights that would be difficult to obtain using either method alone. Studies that are currently underway are:

  1. DBS for Parkinson’s disease
  2. Cortical stimulation for depression
  3. TMS for depression
  4. Intraoperative microstimulation during DBS surgery
  5. DBS for traumatic brain injury

Sleep Research Laboratory

Carol A. Everson, PhD , established the Sleep Research Laboratory in the Department of Neurology and conducts research into the effects of sleep and sleep loss on metabolic, immune, and endocrine functions. The overarching goals are to understand the ways in which sleep loss impairs health, and to discover the physical properties that account for why sleep seems restorative. The research initiatives are supported largely by awards from the National Institute of Health and help to fulfill the goals of the NIH Sleep Disorders Research Plan, which is to advance understanding of sleep and circadian functions in both the brain and the body across the lifespan.

Current Sleep Research Laboratory Research

Whelan Lab

Harry T. Whelan, MD, is the Bleser Family Endowed Chair in Neurology, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and director of the MCW Hyperbaric Medicine Unit. His research focuses on the use of near-infrared light-emitting diodes (LEDs) for wound healing and the treatment of brain tumors, stroke, neurofibromatosis, traumatic brain injury, diabetic macular edema, mitochondrial diseases, and other conditions. His work has been funded by NIH, NASA, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). He has over 100 publications on topics in the fields of cancer, laser therapy, LED therapy, and diving/hyperbaric medicine. Dr. Whelan found that diabetic skin ulcers and other wounds in mice heal much faster when exposed to LEDs. Near-infrared light stimulates improved energy metabolism in the mitochondria, leading to potential treatments for mitochondrial diseases, which affect the brain, eye, heart and muscle, and acute management of stroke and epilepsy. Dr. Whelan presented this translational bench-to-bedside research to the United States Congress at the NASA Spin-off Day on Capitol Hill as an example of how space research is helping patients. Dr. Whelan is a Diving Medical Officer in the U.S. Navy, a consultant to the Navy Experimental Diving Unit and the Canadian Ministry of Defence, and serves as the Senior Undersea Medical Officer for the “Deep Submergence Unit”, with clinical and research experience in Hyperbaric Medicine, wound care and combat casualty care.

List of Current Whelan Laboratory Research
© 2014 Medical College of Wisconsin
Page Updated 06/17/2014