Imaging brain activity in children with stroke

Co-investigator: Gabriel deVeber MD, Division of Neurology, The Hospital for Sick Children
Nomazulu Dlamini MD, Division of Neurology, The Hospital for Sick Children
Andrea Kassner PhD, Department of Medical Imaging, The Hospital for Sick Children
Funded by: Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)

Currently there is very little understanding of why some stroke patients develop dystonic symptoms, usually appearing several months following their stroke, and why this is more prevalent in children. This 3-year CIHR funded project will focus on the use of MEG and MRI imaging in children recovering from stroke who develop hemidystonia or other motor disorders. Our hope is that neuroimaging during targeted motor tasks will help understand the neural mechanisms underlying the development of hypertonia in these patients, and possibly provide predictors of outcome.

Automatic and controlled processes in inhibitory control

Funded by: Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC)

Funded by a 5-year NSERC Discovery grant, IMS graduate student Silvia Isabella is conducting MEG studies on the role of automatic and controlled cognitive processing response inhibition and error monitoring during continuous performance tasks. We are using a novel combination of eye-movement and pupil diameter tracking and MEG recordings to obtain covert measures of mind-wandering or "off-task" mental states and how they influence the way in which we inhibit prepotent responses or process motor errors. This research will enhance our understanding of the neural basis of cognitive control and may have utility in both human factors applications and in the study of attentional deficits in brain injured patients or other disorders.

Modeling epileptic brain activity with MEG

Co-investigator: Hiroshi Otsubo MD, Jason Lerch PhD, Elysa Widjaja MD (SickKids) and Richard Wennberg MD, PhD (Toronto Western Hospital)
Funded by: Ontario Brain Institute (EpLink)

This project involves development of novel source localization techniques for the identification of the generators of epileptic brain activity. We are using both numerical simulations and a visual retinotopy model to test the ability to use MEG and advanced mathematical algorithms to map large areas of activation in the brain during interictal epileptiform discharges. The long-term goal is to validate these methods using MEG and electrocorticogram (ECoG) recordings in patients undergoing surgical treatment for epilepsy.

Constraint therapy in hemiplegic cerebral palsy

Co-investigator: Darcy Fehlings MD, Holland-Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital
Funded by: Ontario Brain Institute (CPNet)

Together with scientists and clinicians at Holland-Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital we are conducting neuroimaging studies in children with hemiplegic cerebral palsy who are undergoing a therapeutic intervention known as "constraint-induced movement therapy (CIMT)" to alleviate symptoms related to developmental disregard (learned disuse) of their upper limbs. We are currently carrying out an MEG study on a cohort of children undergoing constraint therapy to determine if changes in sensory and motor areas of the brain correlate with outcome.

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS)

Co-investigator: Sabah Master, PhD
Funded by: Centre for Brain and Mental Health, The Hospital for Sick Children

In this project we are combining transcranial Direct-Current Stimulation of the brain (tDCS) with MEG during different tasks cognitive and sensory tasks to determine its efficacy in producing focal and specific modification of brain activity. tDCS is a rapidly developing area of interest in human neuroscience, with potential implications in a variety of therapies for brain injury in children and adults, as well as basic studies of brain function.

Neuroplasticity following reconstructive surgery for facial paralysis

Co-investigator: Gregory Borschel MD, Ronald Zuker MD, Elizabeth Donner, MD (SickKids)
Funded by: Peri-operative Innovation Grant, Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, The Hospital for Sick Children

In collaboration with members of the department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at SickKids we are assessing neuroplastic changes in the brain following surgery for facial nerve palsies while patients learn to use the re-innervated or transplanted facial nerves and muscles and develop independent motor control and spontaneous smiling. Current rehabilitation strategies in these patients are based on virtually no knowledge of the underlying neural mechanisms, and our research could have a significant impact on both clinical treatment and basic knowledge of sensorimotor plasticity.


Our research is supported by grants from Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and the Ontario Brain Institute (OBI).