Imagerie multimodale de la myéline pour explorer l'axe coeur-cerveau


Nikola Stikov

Centre de recherche de l'Institut de cardiologie de Montréal


Domaine :  neurosciences, santé mentale et toxicomanies

Programme Chercheurs-boursiers - Junior 1

Concours 2017-2018

The brain and the heart are key players in the human body, but there is still a lot to learn about how they play together. The scientific literature suggests a strong association between cardiovascular conditions and changes in brain microstructure, including white matter lesions and microbleeds.  A better understanding of the heart-brain axis would allow for innovative research on prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases that affect the brain, such as atrial fibrillation.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a powerful imaging modality that shows great promise in characterizing tissue microstructure. However, its resolution is still insufficient to capture the microstructural features of interest, so we rely on sophisticated biophysical models to infer microstructural information. In my first years as a principal investigator, I plan to explore the inherent precision of microstructural brain imaging, as well as the limits imposed by a tool as blunt as MRI.  My approach will be validated in mouse models, and applied to the study of atrial fibrillation and its effect on white matter microstructure.

Cardiovascular diseases are responsible for 29% of deaths in Canada, with 90% of the Canadian population suffering from at least one cardiovascular risk factor. We are still in the early stages of studying the connection between the brain and the heart, and non-invasive imaging of the brain microstructure in cardiovascular patients is a promising approach for characterizing the heart-brain axis.

This project will have three main outcomes for Canada: 1) Unprecedented insight into the heart-brain axis during aging, disease, and treatment; 2) Training of highly qualified personnel at the interface between technology and medical research; 3) Innovation and intellectual property via the construction of a unique infrastructure and analysis framework that is compatible with the clinic.