World class brain research centre to open in Wales

June 29, 2004

Brussels, 28 Jun 2004

UK Science and Innovation Minister Lord Sainsbury has announced a 12 million euro grant to build a new research centre in Wales to benefit people with brain damage and psychological disorders.

The ground-breaking research facility, the Cardiff University Brain and Repair Imaging Centre, will be the first in the UK to combine two cutting edge scanning systems in order to acquire insight into the functioning of the brain. It is hoped that research carried out in the new centre will lead to better treatments for conditions such as strokes, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's disease, and for patients with schizophrenia.

Research will also be carried out to understand the complex psychological and cultural reasons why so many people have long term illnesses. In the UK, six million people are absent on any given working day because of illness. Those absences cost the benefits system, the health service, industry and society as a whole 135 billion euro per year.

'This will be the first centre in the UK, possibly anywhere, that will develop specific lines of research into the psychosocial factors related to disability and ill health,' explained the centre's director, Professor Mansel Aylward. 'We hope that we can identify these factors and develop screening methods for health professionals so they can pinpoint those people who may be more prone to long-term illness and we can intervene and help them.'

Lord Sainsbury added 'This award for new ground-breaking equipment recognises the outstanding work that Cardiff University and the University of Wales College of Medicine have already carried out in the field of brain research.

'The centre will help both organisations maximise the benefits of merger, and keep both UK science and the work that is being carried out in Cardiff at the cutting edge of research worldwide.'

The grant will mainly be used to cover the cost and installation of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and magneto encephalography (MEG) technology equipment.

'The distinctive contribution of fMRI lies in its ability to generate high resolution 3D images of the brain involving critical brain areas employed during sensory, motor and cognitive tasks. Although fMRI is the preferred technique in locating brain processes involved in tasks, the potential benefits of integrating fMRI with the millisecond precision of MEG will enable us to examine and understand the many discrete brain process involved,' explained Professor Peter Halligan, the project director at Cardiff University.

Professor Halligan added: 'In bringing together these two highly sophisticated pieces of equipment, we are creating a facility as advanced as any of its kind in Europe and North America - a facility that offers new opportunities for collaboration across a range of disciplines. The combination of these systems will put Cardiff, and Wales, at the international forefront of developments in brain imaging for the cognitive, social and clinical neurosciences.'

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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