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Brain Centre gives Wales a world lead

University merger leads to 10 million pounds investment

March 4, 2004

An investment of more than 10 million GB pounds will bring state-of-the-art imaging facilities to Wales, helping scientists unravel some of the greatest mysteries of the human brain.

Most of the funding for the new facilities comes from the UK's Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), as a direct result of the forthcoming merger between the University of Wales College of Medicine and Cardiff University.

The new Cardiff University Brain and Repair Imaging Centre will feature the latest brain scanning technologies, enabling psychologists and medical experts to gain a better understanding of how our brain works and what happens to people who suffer from brain injury and various neurological and psychiatric disorders.

The Centre will be one of the first in UK to combine Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and Magnetoencephalography (MEG) devoted solely to research. Both brain imaging systems involve the use of non-invasive methods to study brain processes involved in everyday mental processes such as visual and auditory perception, attention, social functioning, memory, learning, speech and reasoning.

Research at the centre will be of benefit to colleagues in academic disciplines across the merged university including behavioural neurosciences, cognitive science, education, psychology, linguistics, biology, and clinical research in neurology, optometry, psychiatry, neurosurgery, neuro-oncology, genetics, gerontology, and rehabilitative medicine.

In particular, application of these new technologies could lead to improved treatments for conditions such as strokes, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease and for patients with schizophrenia and depression.

"In bringing together these two highly sophisticated pieces of equipment, we are creating a facility as advanced as any of its kind in Europe or North America a facility that offers new opportunities for collaboration across a range of disciplines," explained Project Director, Professor Peter Halligan.

"The combination of these systems will put Cardiff, and Wales, at the international forefront of developments in brain imaging for the cognitive, social and clinical neurosciences."

Professor Halligan, from the School of Psychology, added: "The distinctive contribution of fMRI lies in its ability to generate high resolution 3D-images of the brain involving critical brain areas employed during sensory, motor, and cognitive tasks. Although fMRI is the preferred technique in locating brain processes involved in tasks, the potential benefits of integrating fMRI with the millisecond precision of MEG will enable us to examine and understand the many discrete brain process involved.

'The availability of these facilities will be a boost for the whole scientific community and will further enable Cardiff and Wales to compete internationally and attract world class researchers," he added. The process of recruiting top-quality international experts to run the centre is already under way.

The award of some £8 million by the DTI, provides for the purchase and installation of the equipment and some of the associated estates work. The remaining costs, of building and staffing the centre located alongside Cardiff's School of Psychology and School of Biosciences will be met by internal funds and from University resources earmarked for merger-related projects, as well as £600,000 from the Science Research Investment Fund (SRIF) allocation made by the DTI to all universities last February.

Minister for Science and Innovation at the DTI, Lord Sainsbury said: "This award for new ground-breaking equipment recognises the outstanding work that Cardiff University and the University of Wales College of Medicine have already carried out in the field of brain research.

"The centre will help both organisations maximise the benefits of merger, and keep both UK science and the work that is being carried out in Cardiff at the cutting edge of research worldwide."

In a joint statement, Cardiff University's Vice-Chancellor Dr David Grant and the University of Wales College of Medicine's Vice-Chancellor Professor Stephen Tomlinson, said: "This is a prime example of the benefits merger will deliver for Wales. It will be a world-leading research centre, which will increase our understanding of the human brain and ultimately lead to new treatments for sufferers of some very serious afflictions.

"This is an excellent merger dividend and it is particularly pleasing that it will give Cardiff and Wales a real edge in such a key area of medical research."

Welcoming this latest benefit of merger, Professor Roger Williams, Chairman of the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, added: " This is very exciting news. We look forward to the merged Cardiff University bringing further benefits, such as this, to Cardiff itself, to Wales and to the whole UK, as it pursues its international vision."

Copyright © 2004, EurekAlert