CONTACT: JENNIFER BROWN
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-9917; fax(319) 384-4638
Release: Sept. 6, 2001
UI researchers get $7.1 million grant to study brain structures
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa researchers have been awarded a five-year,
$7.1 million grant renewal from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders
and Stroke (NINDS) to fund their ongoing research aimed at understanding the
relationship between complex behavior and brain systems and structures in
humans. The NINDS funding, currently in its 19th year, along with other National
Institutes of Health grants, will support UI research well into the project's
"The core of our research on language, emotion, memory, decision-making
and consciousness has been supported by this grant," said Antonio R.
Damasio, M.D., the Maurice Van Allen Professor of Neurology and head of the
department. "This funding has allowed us to understand so much of what
we know about brain function in neurological patients."
Damasio and Hanna Damasio, M.D., UI Foundation Distinguished Professor of
Neurology and director of the neuroimaging laboratory, are the program directors
of this grant. Other UI researchers involved with this large grant include
Daniel T. Tranel, Ph.D., UI professor of neurology; Gary W. Van Hoesen, Ph.D.,
UI professor of anatomy and cell biology and neurology; Thomas J. Grabowski,
M.D., UI associate professor of neurology; and Steven W. Anderson, Ph.D.,
Ralph Adolphs, Ph.D., Antoine Bechara, Ph.D., and Josef Parvizi, M.D., who
are all UI assistant professors of neurology.
"The value of this research is that it allows us to understand how
the brain performs such remarkable functions as language, memory, emotion
and the capacity to make decisions," Damasio said. "And at the same
time we can apply the new knowledge that we acquire to the diagnosis and treatment
of neurological disease. Our research is really two-pronged: On the one hand,
we are learning more about ourselves, and on the other hand, we are using
that knowledge to help neurological diagnosis."
The UI research studies generally fall into two main categories. The first
approach is known as the "lesion method." UI researcher use high
power magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to identify and characterize brain
damage. The researchers then perform lesion analysis and relate the specific
brain structure that is damaged to the neurological defect seen in the patient.
Many of the sophisticated techniques used to obtain useful information from
the MRI scans were pioneered at the UI and allow researchers to correlate
the location of the lesion in the brain with the cognitive performance of
The second experimental approach uses these lesion studies as a springboard
to launch investigations aimed at viewing the activity of specific brain structures
as the brain performs particular tasks.
These experiments use techniques known as functional neuroimaging to view
the brain at work. The UI researchers use functional MRI (fMRI) and positron
emission tomography (PET) to study the performance of patients with neurological
deficits and the performance of normal subjects without neurological disease.
The research goal is to pinpoint the neurological systems involved in particular
The UI is considered to be one of the world's best research centers for
studying how the brain performs complex cognitive tasks. One unique resource,
which has helped keep the UI at the forefront of this research field, is the
Cognitive Neuroscience Patient Registry. This detailed catalogue of brain
lesions and their corresponding cognitive implications was established 18
years ago at the UI. The NINDS funding will help maintain and expand this
University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between
the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient
care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit
UI Health Care online at www.uihealthcare.com.