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Spring 2011

Texas Tech Neuroimaging Research

by Kristina Woods Butler

Take a video tour of the state-of-the-art Texas Tech Neuroimaging Institute facility located in the Experimental Sciences Building at Texas Tech University.
Watch the video on YouTube.

Learn More about TTNI

If you are interested in learning more about the institute, visit the TTNI website at www.ttni.ttu.edu, or email neuroimaging@ttu.edu.

Video produced by Scott Irbeck, Office of Communications & Marketing.

Texas Tech University Creates New Neuroimaging Institute

Texas Tech University introduces its newest institute – a multidisciplinary, multi-user, cutting-edge facility for neuroimaging research. The Texas Tech Neuroimaging Institute (TTNI) is located in the Experimental Sciences Building. The roughly 10,000-square-foot research facility includes available office space for faculty, graduate and post-doctoral students, and a fully functional lab/workshop to assist with MRI research. The TTNI provides researchers with brain and body imaging technologies, including structural (MRI), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), diffusion tensor imaging and complex image analysis techniques, like multimodal data fusion of EEG, fMRI and DTI data.

At the heart of the TTNI is the 3-Tesla, Siemens Skyra magnet, state-of-the-art neuroimaging equipment that produces high-quality images of brain anatomy and brain function in very rapid time. According to Michael O'Boyle, interim director of the institute, the magnet will be tremendously useful for a variety of projects that are either ongoing or about to begin, including one that he is personally working on.

"We're doing a considerable amount of neuroimaging of exceptional children, like those with Autism, ADHD or a variety of other neurological syndromes, so that we can investigate the origins and mechanisms of how their brain is operating in these contexts relative to neurotypic individuals," O'Boyle said.

Others involved in this particular project include faculty from the Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research, the College of Engineering and the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC).


Texas Tech Neuroimaging Institute Texas Tech Neuroimaging Institute Texas Tech Neuroimaging Institute Texas Tech Neuroimaging Institute Texas Tech Neuroimaging Institute Texas Tech Neuroimaging Institute

From Left: TTNI office space on the first floor of the Experimental Sciences Building; Facility contains work stations and meeting areas for faculty, graduate and post-doctoral students; Siemens fMRI scanner; Supporting workshop to assist in MRI research; Exam Room is equipped with a non-metallic, non-magnetic gurney for easy transportation to and from the scanning room; Siemens fMRI scanner. Click images to enlarge.


Other projects on tap for the TTNI include neuroimaging the brains of child math geniuses, and several other projects in the human sciences regarding visual cognition and design, mother-child attachments, and risk taking in the context of personal finance and investments.

"Neuroimaging capabilities are very much in vogue in the area of neuroeconomics. So individuals in these domains are interested in what brain areas are associated with risk taking," O'Boyle said. "For example, if I was your personal financial planner, and I was setting up a retirement account for you, it would be important for me to know, to what extent are you willing to accept and absorb risk. The latter might be related to the areas of the brain and individual uses when making such a decision."

During the next few months, O'Boyle will visit various colleges on campus, as well as meet with individuals on the TTUHSC campus, making presentations about the capabilities of the TTNI equipment and how it can add to and cycle through the research programs of those on both campuses, and even people in the medical community. For instance, he said he was recently approached by a physician interested in neuroimaging research on concussions as a result of sports injuries.

"I think the TTNI represents the ultimate version of multidisciplinary research, because we literally have people from all sorts of disciplines, from Alzheimer's disease and cancer researchers, to athletic psychology and physiology, the human sciences and psychology," O'Boyle said. "No matter what their domain of expertise, many researchers are interested now in the extent to which a certain person's brain is mediating what's happening. It is one thing to catalog their behavior, but quite another matter to investigate the neural/brain origins of where those behaviors are coming from."

O'Boyle's plans for the future of the TTNI include hiring two full professors whose interests are specifically in neuroimaging, and attracting postdoctoral and graduate students, which he said are the lifeblood of the research enterprise.

"The TTNI has the highest quality equipment available for doing neuroimaging research: there is no experiment, there is no study that we wouldn't be able to do because of some equipment limitation," O'Boyle said. "We have space, we have equipment, we have the opportunity to move forward at any given time, and we can really set the stage for Texas Tech to be a primary player in the context of neuroimaging work."

The TTNI, he said, is a milestone for Texas Tech in terms of its research profile and its pursuit of national/international visibility.

"We are very lucky to have generous donors, the support of both vice presidents for research, and the support of the faculty on both campuses. And the fact that we could bring it all together to create this institute, places us right in line with the top places in the country in terms of neuroimaging research," he said.

Kristina Woods Butler is a Sr. Editor for the Office of the Vice President for Research at Texas Tech University

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Sep 24, 2014