My name is Catarina Rua and I’m a Marie Curie fellow of the Ultra-high field MR project working in functional MRI at the IMAGO7 foundation in Pisa, IT.
I finished my degree in 2012 in Biomedical Engineering and Biophysics at the university of Lisbon, PT, with the final thesis developed at the University of Cambridge, UK, entitled “Analysis in Magnetic Resonance Elastography: study and development of image processing techniques”, supervised by Dr. Marius Mada and Dr. Alexandre Andrade. I used MR as a tool to extract meaningful elasticity parameters of the brain, both by working on acquisition methods as well as understanding inversion algorithms for post-acquired data.
The following year I took part of a research project led by Prof. Paul Fletcher at the Brain Mapping Unit (BMU), department of Psychiatry, in Cambridge where our main focus were theories of brain gyrification, namely trying to explain how a brain folds and morphologically develops through life.
From the end of 2013 I was granted a Marie Curie doctoral scholarship at the University of Pisa to work on ultra-high field magnetic resonance imaging with the supervision of Prof. A. del Guerra, Prof. M. Tosetti and Dr. M. Costagli. My research interests have gradually narrowed down into the MR field exploring the complex systems of the human body, and in particular the mechanical and functional processes of the brain throughout its lifespan. Hence, in my doctoral project I’m mostly interested on decoding the functional architecture of the early visual cortex in humans at a sub-millimeter level.
Project Title: High-Resolution fMRI Applications
Supervisor: Prof A. Del Guerra, Prof M.Tosetti
Centre: IMAGO7 foundation and University of Pisa, Italy
Secondment: OVGU and GE
My research project involves developing functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) sequences and analysis methods (in somatosensory, auditory and visual processing areas, as well as in the cerebellum) aimed at revealing and defining the functional architecture in the cortex at sub-millimetre spatial resolution. Having the first 7T MRI scanner in Italy, and the first GE system of its kind in Europe, the IMAGO7 Research Foundation has the means for innovative research in ultra high-field (UHF) MRI.
Thus, following the recent developments on the knowledge of the organization of cortical columns and layer-specific neural activity, this project focuses on providing a more detailed description of the functional processes at a resolution which until now was only possible on animals. Besides increased spatial specificity, UHF will allow increased temporal resolution, paving the way to understand the temporal dynamics of the human brain.
In addition, these functional areas may unveil unique neuronal clusters that can be combined with structural information showing a potential correlation between function and cytoarchitectonic subdivisions of the human brain. Consequently, I aim to study the brain architecture, create structure-specific parcellations and correlate with functional maps originated from fMRI experiments.
The research project will be conducted at two different sites. At IMAGO7 the work involves explicit supervision and expertise of Dr. Mauro Costagli and Prof. Michela Tosetti, for both experimentation and analysis of the MR studies. Likewise, time will be spent at the department of Physics (Pisa) and the Instituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN) under the guidance of Prof. Alberto del Guerra in order to broaden the knowledge on applied physics. Further on, I will carry out a 6-month secondement to Otto-von-Guericke-Universität in Magdeburg, Germany, in order to implement pre-designed fMRI experiments on a different MR system.
Meetings Attended: Joint Annual Meeting ISMRM/ESMRMB 2014 (Milan)
Publications: L Ronan, N Voets, Catarina Rua, A Bloch, M Hough, C Mackay T J Crow, A James, J N Giedd, P C Fletcher. 2013. Differential Tangential Expansion as a Mechanism for Cortical Gyrification. Cerebral Cortex
N Forde, L Ronan, J Suckling, C Scanlon, S Neary, L Holleran, A Leemans, R Tait, Catarina Rua, P Fletcher, B Jeurissen, C Dodds, S Miller, E Bullmore, C McDonald, P Nathan, D Cannon. 2014. Structural neuroimaging correlates of allelic variation of the BDNF val66met polymorphism. NeuroImage (90): 280–289