Mapping symptoms to brain circuits

FNIH Trailblazer Michael Fox maps brain circuits to symptoms to treat disease

Harvard physician scientist Michael Fox is using brain imaging to map neurological symptoms to the circuits that drive them, and thinks his connectivity maps can yield opportunities for drug developers.

Fox, an associate professor of neurology and director of Harvard Medical School’s Laboratory for Brain Network Imaging and Modulation, is modernizing one of neuroscience’s oldest research strategies: analyzing patients with brain damage to identify regions responsible for specific neurological functions.

The problem has been that damage in seemingly unrelated areas can cause the same symptoms, making it hard to know where to target a therapy.

In his early work as an M.D./PhD student at Washington University in St. Louis, Fox helped advance an MRI-based approach dubbed “functional connectivity mapping,” which identifies brain regions that work together as part of the same circuit.

In his Harvard lab, Fox overlays seemingly unrelated lesion sites onto MRI-defined neural circuits to find connections. The goal is to identify a node within a circuit that

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