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Kessler Foundation Acquires MRI Simulator to Expand Neuroimaging Research Capabilities
Date:8/31/2018

Kessler Foundation, a major center for rehabilitation research, has expanded its neuroimaging capabilities with the addition of an MRI Simulator. In the MRI Simulator, the individual experiences the conditions of an actual magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan including sounds. By engaging in this mock scan experience, research participants become accustomed to the sights and sounds of the actual scan, reducing anxiety and enabling scientists to capture optimal images.

“This is critical for conducting valid research studies,” said Brian Yao, PhD, manager of the Rocco Ortenzio Neuroimaging Center at Kessler Foundation. “Our results depend upon the quality of the images we obtain.” The MRI Simulator is also a way for participants to learn to control their head movement, a major cause of poor image quality. “Running a mock scan is easy, fast, low cost, and flexible in terms of time,” said Dr. Yao. “Real scans are expensive, so scans that are unusable or need to be repeated raise the cost of research and impede our progress toward new treatments. Practice time in the MRI Simulator helps to improve the quality of the data acquired in the actual experiment.”

The MRI Simulator is especially useful for preparing children for scans, as well as people of all ages with conditions that may compromise the quality of their scans, including anxiety disorders, phobias, and sensitivities to sound. At Kessler Foundation, the MRI Simulator is being used in pediatric research in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). In collaboration with Children’s Specialized Hospital, Anthony Juliano, Psy.D, postdoctoral fellow is conducting a cross-sectional pilot study in young children, aged 5 to 8 years.

“It’s especially challenging to get quality scans in this age group,” he said, “so the MRI Simulator is an important tool in furthering our understanding of brain activity in young children with autism, as well as healthy controls.” Research into ASD is complicated by the wide variability of symptoms and their expression. “Correlating brain activity with symptom expression will provide useful information on the etiology of ASD, how these disorders progress, and their prognoses,” Dr. Juliano noted. “Improving our understanding of brain function and connectivity is fundamental to develop effective interventions for these disabling conditions.”    

Participants in the pilot study undergo neuropsychological and behavioral evaluations and a mock scan at Kessler Foundation’s East Hanover, NJ, site, and a functional MRI at the Ortenzio Center at Kessler Foundation in West Orange, NJ. For more information, contact Dr. Juliano at ResearchStudies@KesslerFoundation.org; 973-324-8393.

Children’s Specialized Hospital
Children’s Specialized Hospital is the nation’s leading provider of inpatient and outpatient care for children from birth to 21 years of age facing special health challenges—from chronic illnesses and complex physical disabilities like brain and spinal cord injuries, to developmental and behavioral issues like autism and mental health. At 13 different New Jersey locations, our pediatric specialists partner with families to make our many innovative therapies and medical treatments more personalized and effective...so each child can reach their full potential.

About Kessler Foundation
Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility and long-term outcomes, including employment, for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities.

Learn more by visiting http://www.KesslerFoundation.org.

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