Brain Imaging Lab

Brain Imaging Lab

At the ACNC Brain Imaging Laboratory, our researchers study brain structural and functional development in children using advanced, non-invasive neuroimaging methods. We have research access to the MRI scanners at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH) Department of Radiology, including two 1.5-Tesla Achieva scanners and one newly-acquired 3-Tesla Prisma scanner with 80 mT/m maximum gradient amplitude, 200 mT/m/ms maximum slew rate, and a 64-channel SENSE head/neck coil for superior capacity of advanced neuroimaging.

Recent Findings

Effects of maternal obesity on offspring brain development

Using advanced MRI, ACNC scientists have discovered maternal obesity during pregnancy can lead to changes in brain structure in newborns. A new and growing literature suggests maternal health has profound neurological effects on fetal development. Such studies shed light on fundamental mechanisms of human brain development, and could help with design of dietary and exercise interventions for expecting mothers that improve infant health.

Brain structure/function and childhood obesity

Using quantitative MRI, we have observed differences in regional brain volume and in white matter microstructures between obese otherwise healthy children and healthy normal-weight children. In addition, obese children showed different activation patterns in the brain when processing tasks relevant to decision-making and reward. Our findings suggest significant associations between childhood obesity and brain structural/functional development.

Infant diets and long-term brain development in children

What infants eat during the first year of life may have a long-term impact on their brain development. An imaging study of healthy 8-year-old children, who were either predominantly breastfed or formula-fed as infants, showed better brain maturation associated with breastfeeding. Further evaluation of whether different formula types (e.g., cow’s milk or soy formula) influence these processes longer-term is ongoing.

Lab Members

Xiawei Ou, Ph.D., Director of the Brain Imaging Lab

Amjad Samara, M.D., Postdoctoral Fellow

Ting Li, Graduate Student

Charles Feng, Student

Collaborating Faculty

Dr. Charles Glasier, M.D.

Dr. Raghu Ramakrishnaiah, M.D.

Dr. Amy Rowell, M.D.