The Brain Health Imaging Institute (BHII) possesses a world-class core team of neuroscientists, radiologists, neurologists, psychologists, engineers, statisticians, and a data manager. The BHII, with affiliated Weill Cornell Medicine (WCM) faculty, students, international collaborators, and visiting scholars, functions as a platform to create, teach, conduct, and evaluate brain imaging research in aging and neurodegenerative disease.
The fundamental mission of the BHII is to:
- develop interdisciplinary research on age-related human brain diseases
- recruit, screen, and maintain a unique registry of longitudinal research subject
- discover and validate novel imaging and fluid biomarkers leading to mechanistic understanding of age-related brain disease
- develop novel interventions and initiate experimental treatments for human neurocognitive disease
SCIENTIFIC PROGRAM, HISTORY, ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Diagnostic Imaging and biomarkers: The BHII has a long history of conducting CT, MRI, PET, and biofluid investigations. Pioneering BHII investigations include: the quantification of age vs disease-related neocortical atrophy; the first FDG-PET studies of Alzheimer disease (AD); and the discovery of radiographic evidence for AD hippocampal atrophy, which led to the world’s first longitudinal AD prediction study. BHII has extensively studied CSF and plasma proteins for improving the pathologic specificity of dementia prediction.
- Neurovascular risk for dementia: Current National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded BHII investigations involve developing functional biomarkers for dementia and potentially AD. These include using fMRI to evaluate the brain hemodynamic response, and MRI-measured blood flow responses to cognitive challenge. We discovered the importance of the negative fMRI bold signal, and optimized the MRI measurement of hippocampal perfusion, a major challenge as the structure is surrounded by artifact-producing bone and fluid. Extending these observations to subjects treated for elevated blood pressure led to the discovery of an optimal blood pressure range to maintain hippocampal perfusion following hypertension treatment. Recently the BHII developed a technique to regionally quantify brain CSF turnover, as the CSF’s ability to remove waste materials from the brain may be impaired in AD.
- Other dementia risk comorbidities: In the CSF, we identified misfolded AD-related protein expression patterns linked to elderly subgroups at risk for dementia (eg, sleep apnea, maternal family history, traumatic brain injury, periodontal disease, and surgery exposure). These point to AD heterogeneity and the need for new individualized treatment targets. Polygenetic risk factor studies are in progress.
- Post-mortem validation: With pathologists, BHII investigators have validated at post mortem, and have published, many abnormal AD imaging findings including: white matter lesions; hippocampal, amygdala, and entorhinal morphology; septal nuclei; glucose metabolism reductions; and the differential neocortical lamina localization of amyloid and tau lesions.
- Treatment studies: BHII faculty developed, and are testing in NIH-sponsored trials, a novel hormone treatment for females with cognitive impairment. Prior BHII studies have investigated novel PET radiotracers for efficacy in detecting brain lesions.
- Exploratory Imaging: With WCM radiochemistry colleagues, BHII has developed novel radiotracers including [11C]butanol for characterizing interstitial fluid turnover necessary for multi-organ cleansing. Also in progress: new MRI protocols, QSM for imaging brain iron depositions, DCE for AD blood/brain barrier disruptions, and a PET radiotracer for blood clot imaging to be applied in COVID-19 studies.
RESEARCH VOLUNTEERS: If you are interested in learning about or participating in a BHII research study, please email BHIIcoordinator@med.cornell.edu or call 646-962-8503.