Project: Early brain development in infants at risk for mental illness

To answer key questions in an effort to synthesize neurodevelopmental mechanisms, genetic vulnerability, and the development of schizophrenia through image analysis.

Neuroimaging core: This core is responsible for processing and analysis of fMRI, structural MRI and DTI image data of young infants


In an effort to synthesize neurodevelopmental mechanisms, genetic vulnerability, and the development of schizophrenia, the Silvio O. Conte Center’s “Prospective Studies of the Pathogenesis of Schizophrenia” will answer three key questions: 1) At what stage of development does cortical pathology arise in children at risk for schizophrenia?; 2) How does cortical pathology contribute to the developmental expression of cognitive deficits and clinical symptoms of schizophrenia?; and 3) Can an apparently diverse set of developmental mechanisms and risk genes give rise to a common cortical pathology implicated in schizophrenia? The central hypothesis of the UNC Conte Center is that genetic vulnerability for schizophrenia can compromise multiple mechanisms of early cortical development, each of which ultimately contributes to aberrant cortical circuitry, neurocognitive deficits, and the clinical symptoms of schizophrenia. The clinical projects of the UNC Conte Center uses state-of-the-art multimodal imaging and image analysis to study the development of cortical structure and function in children at genetic high risk for schizophrenia, during the two critical periods of cortical synaptic development: synaptic elaboration during early childhood and synaptic remodeling and elimination during adolescence.

The service of the Imaging Core includes the selection and development of optimal acquisition protocols, data transfer of image data to the image analysis labs, storing and archiving of clinical and animal study-image data, 3D segmentation and quantitative analysis to obtain measurements of brain structures and pathways, rigorous validation and quality control, and preparation of resulting data for statistical analysis. Besides supervision of the whole Imaging Core as PI, Guido Gerig’s research team at Utah focuses particularly on image analysis of infant MRI/DTI image data, on processing of adult MRI/DTI, and on preparing measurements for statistical analysis by the UNC biostatistics team. The Utah group is connected to UNC via secure network for shared use of computing resources and data, and via a videoconference system to organize image-analysis work and communicate with the research team through regular meetings.


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  • MH064065-09