Support our most powerful tool in brain research

Home to one of the most powerful MRI scanners in Australia, NeuRA Imaging is a state-of-the-art MRI research facility. With the equipment and expertise to facilitate non-invasive research into the brain and body, its potentially life-changing impact shows value beyond compare. But we need your help to keep it going.

I’m Professor Caroline (Lindy) Rae, the Director of Research at NeuRA Imaging. I’ve spent my career immersed in the incredible world of brain research – working to unravel many of the devastating conditions that affect millions of people around the world. Researchers in this field want to try and prevent dementia robbing a person of their ability to remember loved ones, or provide a child with a brain or spinal cord injury the chance to walk again.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (or MRI) plays a big part in what I do. Many of you would’ve heard the term MRI, have had one yourself or know a family member or friend that has. MRIs are used to obtain in-depth internal images of the brain and body.

MRI scanners are one of the most vital pieces of equipment in brain research, because the scans are non-invasive in nature. That means they let us get crucial, potentially life-saving information, without having to perform procedures in which we break the skin or otherwise enter the body. The images these amazing machines capture are extremely detailed and advanced. The wonders of our brains are thankfully locked safely inside the bones of our skull, so being able to explore their complexities through images, rather than surgery, is key to figuring out their mysteries.

NeuRA is committed to advancing scientific knowledge through research, in the hope of changing lives. Imaging has been at the forefront of NeuRA’s research since 2003, with our MRI facilities supporting over 100 research projects, which have produced more than 300 new pieces of knowledge added to the global understanding of brain and nervous system disorders.

NeuRA Imaging is exclusively a research facility, which means we solely focus on unlocking the many secrets still yet to be unravelled in areas including ageing and neurodegeneration, mental disorders, injury prevention, chronic and acute pain, sleep and brain mapping. The more we discover, the more doctors can do to help patients in clinical settings – making the real-life impact that we as researchers all want to see. We want to find cures, stop seeing families devastated by life-altering diagnoses and allow people with chronic conditions better quality of life through more effective treatment. This is why we need vital funding to keep the research alive and find these answers.

At the NeuRA Imaging facility in Sydney, we are lucky enough to have a one-of-a-kind MRI scanner to work with – the Philips Ingenia CX 3T MRI scanner. There isn’t another scanner like this in all of Australia, and its capabilities are simply incredible. Using the scanner, NeuRA has developed and optimised a new, non-invasive MRI imaging method called Magnetic Resonance Electrical Properties Tomography (MREPT). It has the potential to reliably and repetitively detect changes in brain activity.

NeuRA invested $3.8 million to secure this machine, but its significance extends far beyond its monetary value. Its market-leading technology includes a full range of imaging coils for neuro, body and musculoskeletal imaging, a Sensavue fMRI system, and eye tracking system. It even has a magnetic field up to 10,000 times stronger than the Earth’s.

Our long and collaborative relationship with Philips means we have access to cutting-edge features that aren’t available anywhere else, including in clinical or commercial environments. And it’s not just the machine that makes our facility one-of-a-kind. Around the scanner we have gathered a group of dedicated and experienced MRI experts. They are available to assist and guide researchers if needed, to help them achieve their research objectives.

NeuRA attracts some grant funding, but obtaining research funding is an extremely competitive field, and resources are limited. What we receive is by no means sufficient to cover the running costs of our facility, nor does it represent what NeuRA Imaging offers the research and wider community. A one-hour scan costs approximately $700 and having to stop scanning due to COVID has derailed our hopes to have the facility more significantly funded by this income. It also stalled many important research projects during this time.

If you want to help us find more answers to complex neurological illnesses like dementia and Parkinson’s disease, a generous donation could contribute to the cost of a scan, helping to support vital research in these fields, and more.

I want to introduce you to some of the research we’ve facilitated at NeuRA Imaging to give you better idea of just how much impact this machine and its team are making. When Dr Kylie Radford joined NeuRA in 2009, very little was known about dementia in urban and regional Aboriginal populations. With most dementia and neuroscience research exclusively focused on a narrow segment of the population, research on more diverse population groups is urgently needed. Diversifying this research is critical to addressing the significant health risks of dementia and debunking the many myths that stand in the way of Aboriginal communities getting the help and education they need.

As Dr Kylie Radford explains, “The MRI facility at NeuRA, including the world-class equipment and expertise of their staff, means we can apply cutting-edge techniques to capture the best neuroimaging data possible. Having the facility in-house at NeuRA also means we can ensure a culturally safe and welcoming environment for our participants.”

Professor George Paxinos AO and his team of brain cartographers are the international leaders in the field of mapping the brain’s systems and function. They say we know more about the universe than we do about the brain, and the Brain Atlas project directly helps those who study and treat brain disease – both neurologic and psychiatric.

The availability of NeuRA’s facility, enabling advanced MRI scans and images to build more detailed brain maps to continue to explore its secrets, have further elevated the team’s research capabilities, as well as the use of brain maps in clinical settings.

“As a tide that lifts all boats, our work is of assistance to most people in neuroscience. As an example, our maps of the human brain are used in operating theatres when neurosurgeons implants electrodes for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease,” Professor Paxinos says. Already the most prolific brain cartographer in history, Professor Paxinos and his team believe they’ve developed the most accurate mapping of the brain in the world here at NeuRA Imaging.

One of Professor Paxinos’ team members, Dr Steve Kassem, visited NeuRA Imaging each week for a year to gather images and develop new maps. He says the machine, plus the expertise of the NeuRA team, are a unique combination. “As you can imagine, understanding where parts of the brain are and what they are connected to is one of the most fundamental elements of brain research, something the atlases this lab provides in its best detail.” Its impact on the future of clinical implementation is immeasurable.

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a physical disability that affects body movement, muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex, posture and balance. It is caused by damage to the developing brain either during pregnancy or shortly after birth. There are around 34,000 people living with cerebral palsy in Australia – that’s 1 in 700 babies diagnosed with CP. Children with CP can also have delays in emotional, cognitive and physical development. Even mild CP can lead to isolation from classmates, falling behind in school and being unable to take part in group activities such as sport and school performances – many of the things that are part of being a kid.

Led by Senior Principal Research Scientist Professor Rob Herbert, The MUGgLE study is a collaboration between researchers at the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Institute, University of  New South Wales and NeuRA. The MUGgLE study is the world’s largest and most comprehensive research study on the growth of muscles and tendons during childhood and the mechanisms of muscle contracture in children with cerebral palsy. Impaired muscle growth and muscle contracture are major causes of physical disability in children with CP.

The aims of the MUGgLE study are to:
● describe growth-related changes in the threedimensional architecture of leg muscles of typically developing children,
● compare growth-related changes in muscle architecture in children with cerebral palsy and typically developing children, and
● identify causes of impaired muscle growth in children with cerebral palsy.

Professor Herbert says the study could not be done without NeuRA’s world-class MRI scanning facilities. Continued funding for the scanning facility is vital
for his team and other research teams like them. Professor Herbert has conducted nearly 300 scans since 2020 and plans to do hundreds more in the next couple of years – working to finding answers for children with cerebral palsy, and their families.

With approximately 25 approved projects running at one time, these are just a few examples of the incredible work happening at NeuRA Imaging. We are extremely proud of what we’re able to achieve with one fantastic scanner and an amazing team of technicians, and we know there is untapped potential, with life-changing outcomes ahead. But we need ongoing funding to ensure the facility can continue making advancements in brain and body research.

It costs about $287,000 per year to run our facilities, including paying the salaries of our dedicated and highly skilled team. Our contributions to the research community would be impossible without them.

Your generous donation will make a difference to current and future research projects, supporting scientific and medical advancements that could have impact for generations to come. Whether it’s dementia, schizophrenia, brain injury, chronic pain, mental illness or the multitude of other conditions that affect our bodies and brains, our MRI facility and the people behind it are leading the way in research. You can help them continue their vital work. Thank you for your support, and I hope you will join us on this journey of supporting life-changing research.

Yours sincerely,
Professor Caroline (Lindy) Rae
Conjoint Senior Principal Scientist, NeuRA
Director (Research) NeuRA Imaging

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