The University of East Anglia (UEA) has officially opened the doors of its new £3m state-of-the-art neuroimaging research centre, thanks to funding totalling £1.3m from two charitable foundations: Wellcome and the Wolfson Foundation.
The UEA Wellcome-Wolfson Brain Imaging Centre is housed in the School of Psychology at UEA and features a cutting edge Siemens 3 Tesla MRI scanner, as well as clinical testing rooms, changing facilities and a waiting room. The centre also has future provision for a mock scanner room that will improve the quality of the University’s data by preparing participants, particularly children, ahead of the scanning itself.
The research-dedicated facilities will support many experts from across UEA who will collaborate to understand how the brain develops in childhood, responds to traumas like strokes, or changes during healthy ageing and dementia. This unique blend of research across the lifespan could improve people’s lives through the development of new diagnostic tools, methods of early identification of disease risks, and rehabilitative techniques for neurological conditions such as an acquired brain injury or stroke.
The MRI scanner is the first in Norfolk to be used solely for research purposes and is being made available, along with all of the equipment at the UEA Wellcome-Wolfson Brain Imaging Centre, to other researchers across the region, including the University of Essex, Anglia Ruskin University and the University of Kent, to enable collaboration across the region and expansion into new scientific fields.
Dr Raliza Stoyanova, Acting Head of Neuroscience & Mental Health at Wellcome, said: “The UK is a world leader in the application of brain imaging to answering some of the most pressing questions in neuroscience. Answering these fundamental questions is at the heart of Wellcome’s new strategy and we look forward to seeing the exciting science that the new UEA Wellcome-Wolfson Brain Imaging Centre will enable.”
The first participants were two children scanned at the new centre as part of the research of Prof John Spencer, Professor in Psychology at UEA, into early brain development. Prof Spencer is exploring how executive function, including working memory and attention, develop through childhood, which could lead to interventions that support children at risk of developmental disorders.
Jessica Warner, Head of Funding at the Wolfson Foundation, said: “UEA has assembled an impressive team of researchers studying how the brain develops and reacts from infancy to old age. We were delighted to help fund an appropriate suite of imaging equipment to advance this research, building on over 45 years of supporting excellence at the University.”
The Wellcome Trust is a charitable foundation focused on health research which provides funding which aims to solve urgent health challenges. The Wolfson Foundation focuses on research and education and supports civil society by investing in projects in science, health, heritage, humanities and the arts.
Prof David Richardson, UEA Vice-Chancellor and President said: “The UEA Wellcome-Wolfson Brain Imaging Centre underpins UEA’s ambitious neuroimaging research agenda and will accelerate world class cognitive and clinical neuroimaging research in Norfolk that translates to improve people’s lives.
“We are deeply grateful to Wellcome and the Wolfson Foundation for their continued partnership on our campus and their endorsement of the University’s growing research expertise. We look forward to many future advances in our understanding of the brain and its functioning as a result of their very generous support.
“Our next ambition is to identify a further generous donor or charity who can help us develop our Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Laboratory and Electroencephalography (EEG) Suite, and also support the purchase of a mock scanner for our mock scanner room. The TMS and EEG suites and the mock scanner will further enhance our data, improving the quality of our research.”