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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Building a Next Generation, Whole Brain Imaging Platform Using Simultaneous PET, fMRI, Behavioral Pharmacology, and Mathematical Modeling of Decision Making

Cognitive function results from interactions of distributed networks of anatomically, physiologically, and pharmacologically distinct components of the central nervous system. Proper brain function depends on the balance of many chemical components such as dopamine, which is affected in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders. However, the mechanisms connecting those chemicals — which are often the target of drugs — to resulting changes in brain function remain largely unknown.

The goal of this project is to combine two types of brain imaging technology — positron emission tomography and MRI —to understand the relationship between neural activity, the modulatory effects of the dopamine system, and cognitive performance in the neural networks that underlie simple decision-making and reward processing.

The PET/MR technology, available at UW–Madison and only a few other institutions in the world, will be further enhanced with pharmacological manipulations and simultaneous cognitive testing using eye-tracking technology. The results will help develop models and methods to uncover the effects of therapeutic drugs and the mechanistic links, underlying computations, and information flow between targeted brain networks.

Principal Investigator

  • Luis Populin
    Associate professor

Co-Principal Investigators

  • Andrew Alexander
    Medical Physics
  • Ramus Birn
    Associate professor
  • Walter Block
    Biomedical Engineering
  • Alexander Converse
    Associate scientist
    Waisman Center
  • Rick Jenison
  • Alan McMillan
    Associate scientist
    Radiology and Biomedical Engineering
  • Bradley Christian
    Associate professor
    Medical Physics and Psychiatry