RS-fMRI can detect drug effects with extremely high sensitivity in small groups of subjects. The effect of a wide range of drugs on the RS-fMRI signal has been studied at CHDR in collaboration with the Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition and the FMRIB (fMRI of the Brain) Analysis Group at the University of Oxford. A library of RS-fMRI ‘fingerprints’ has been established for well-characterised psychoactive compounds. RS-fMRI can be combined with task-based fMRI and other CNS function tests such as NeuroCart® and PainCart®.
The Pharmaco-MRI Research Unit at the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) houses a Philips Ingenia® 3.0T scanner that is dedicated to research, ensuring that it is available for studies in both patients and healthy volunteers. Since a full RS-fMRI scan takes less than 10 minutes, several scans can be performed during a study day, without causing fatigue or distress to the subject.
fMRI of the brain
The development of compounds targeting the central nervous system (CNS) is inherently complicated due to the difficulty of accessing the brain. Finding measurable drug concentrations in the blood does not guarantee that the compound penetrates into the brain. There is, therefore, a need for a technique that is non-invasive, has good spatial resolution, is safe and relatively easy to implement, and can be repeated over time in the same subject. fMRI of the brain fulfils these requirements.
In 2006, CHDR and the LUMC Radiology Department started a collaborative research programme to investigate the potential of resting-state fMRI as an innovative translational tool in CNS drug development, complementing existing pharmacodynamic measures.
The Pharmaco-MRI Research Unit
The Pharmaco-MRI Research Unit is part of the LUMC’s Radiology Department, which also includes general radiology, nuclear medicine, medical image processing, high-field MRI, and molecular imaging facilities. In addition to serving the needs of patients, the Radiology Department is strongly committed to research, as evidenced by three dedicated research scanners (one 7T and two 3T), and a full-service medical image processing group.