Neurosciences Program

Dr. Li is the Director of the Multiple Sclerosis/Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MS/MRI) Research Group, which was originally established in the 1980s by Professor Donald Paty. This is a multi-disciplinary group of radiologists, neurologists, computer scientists, statisticians and basic scientists working together to design, execute and analyze MRI studies in Phase I, II, III and IV multicentre clinical trials. The group has been the central MRI analysis laboratory for over 25 multi-centre, international clinical trials.

One of its first projects was the pivotal interferon trial in relapsing and remitting MS, the landmark study that established MRI as a key trial endpoint. The MRI results provided objective confirmatory evidence to the clinical endpoints which led to product approval by the US Food and Drug Administration as the first disease modifying treatment of MS. As part of its overall vision to develop better trial methodologies to improve the lives of people with neurological diseases, the Group has many ongoing collaborations including a very close working relationship with Dr Alex MacKay who heads the UBC High Field MRI Centre.

Dr. MacKay, along with Dr. Li and nine others obtained $8.5M funding from CFI for infrastructure relating to the UBC High Field MR Imaging Centre which has a 3T whole body MR scanner for research on humans and a 7T small bore scanner for research involving animal models of human diseases. The Centre supports a broad range on in-vivo projects, including functional MRI studies of cortical networks in schizophrenia and dyslexia as well as in normal volunteers, brain MR spectroscopy studies of multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and structural studies of osteoarthritis.

1) A longitudinal MR study following acute and chronic lesions in MS patients using a host of MR measures

2) An investigation of Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy (CSM) looking into myelination state, somatosensory evoked potentials, CSF flow, cord motion and DTI near spinal stenoses

3) We are working with a drug company on a multi-centre MS therapy clinical trial using myelin water imaging as a primary outcome measure

4) We are investigating the fundamental mechanisms of T1 and T2 contrast in brain by exploring exchange of water between the bilayers of myelin and the intra and extra cellular spaces.

5) We are attempting to develop an accurate in vivo measure of absolute water content in vivo at 3T

Our core group has two Research Associates: Corree Laule and Irene Vavasour. The number of students fluctuates- two graduated last fall and we shall take on one or two more this fall. In the summer we shall have three summer students.

Most of our research involves close collaboration with David Li, Radiology and we are developing projects with Talia Vertinsky. We also do some work with Piotr Kozlowski.Elana Brief, who works with the Womans Health Network is doing one project with us.

Alex Rauscher, Assistant Professor within the Department of Radiology is an employee of the UBC MRI Research Centre. His basic research focuses on  MR signal formation in the presence of magnetically inhomogeneous tissues, such as nerve fibres or blood vessels. His biomedical research programme includes neuromaging in concussion and multple sclerosis.  He is collaborating with various researchers from the departments of Physics and Astronomy, Radiology, Neurology and Pathology.

Check our Dr. Rauscher's site to see a complete list of his research.

We work closely with Tony Traboulsee, Neurology, and Wayne Moore, Neuropathology. We also have a longstanding collaboration with Sandra Sirrs from Adult Metabolic Diseases on Phenylketonurea. I share a graduate student, Agnes d'Entremont with Dave Wilson with the Department of Orthopaedics. Our CSM study is a collaboration with ICORD researchers.