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organization

Magstim Co Ltd (The)

Country: United Kingdom
3 Projects, page 1 of 1
  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: BB/F011474/1
    Funder Contribution: 195,707 GBP
    Partners: University of Birmingham, Magstim Co Ltd (The), SR Research Ltd

    The bid is to provide state-of-the art eye tracking, audio, and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) equipment to support the work of a group of researchers in the Behavioural Brain Sciences Centre at the School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham. The eye tracking equipment will allow us to trace the gaze of people engaged in a variety of communicative tasks, such as reading texts, describing pictures, instructing or interacting with others to carry out tasks. Eye tracking is an extremely valuable tool for cognitive psychology because it provides an implicit measure of how attention is allocated in a task, enabling us to study the factors that modulate attention by assessing their effects on eye movements. Eyetracking is also well suited to study the cognitive processes occurring when people carry out complex tasks, facilitating the analysis of social behaviour. TMS is a technique for temporarily altering activity in targeted brain regions, providing novel information on the role of the targeted regions in cognitive tasks. The eye movement studies will provide us with a fine-grained analysis of factors influencing social cognition and language processing; the TMS studies will enable us to link our functional account of performance to underlying neural structures. Four sets of studies are planned, determined by the different laboratory set-ups required to cope with the contrasting demands of the experiments (with individual participants vs. with pairs of participants, with children and with neuropsychological patients). In set-up A, we will examine 'joint actions' performed by two participants operating either in co-operation or competition. Here we will measure eye movements to inform us about whether we attend to information that is irrelevant to our own task but that is used by confederates when tasks are performed together. We will also assess whether the perception of the other's gaze helps to co-ordinate the timing of actions. Set-up B will be used to understand the planning and generation of speech and gesture. Here eye movements provide fine-grained information about the relations between attention and speech articulation, enabling us to examine how speech planning is affected by age and by stuttering. We will also assess how speech and eye movements are co-ordinated under different task loads. The experiments on gesture will examine how eye and hand movements are co-ordinated to facilitate communication. Set-up C uses equipment specialised for testing with children. Here we will assess how both adults and children conduct referential communication, and what factors dictate whether we take into account the information available to the person we are communicating with. We will also examine eye movements in children as they learn to read, examining the relations between eye movements, reading and speaking. Set-up 4 will employ equipment that can be used with neuropsychological patients and in experiments using TMS. The projects here will test (i) patients and (ii) effects of TMS to specific brain regions, to elucidate the brain regions involved when we engage in joint actions with other people. TMS will also be used to evaluate the brain regions involved when we integrate speech and gesture in order to facilitate communication. The experiments will help us understand the functional processes, and the brain regions, critical to aspects of social cognition (particularly joint actions) and both verbal (spoken) and non-verbal (gestural) communication.

  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: EP/M00855X/1
    Funder Contribution: 3,747,410 GBP
    Partners: Magstim Co Ltd (The), BIOXYDYN LIMITED, GlaxoSmithKline, Acuitas Medical Limited, RENISHAW, Cardiff University

    MRI scanners are used widely to diagnose disease and to understand the workings of the healthy body. However, while useful for some diagnoses, they do not capture tissue properties at microscopic length scales (thousandths of a millimetre) where important processes occur, e.g. in the 'axons' connecting different brain areas, or in cells in vital organs, e.g. liver. Such detailed examination usually requires an invasive 'biopsy' which is studied under a microscope. However, biopsies only provide information about small regions of an organ, are destructive and so cannot be performed repeatedly for monitoring, and can be risky to collect, e.g. in the brain. This project assembles engineers, physicists, mathematicians and computer scientists to develop new MRI methods for quantifying tissue structure at the microscopic scale. The principal approach looks at how fine tissue structure impedes the movement of water. Current MRI hardware restricts measurement to relatively large molecular displacements and from tissue components with a relatively strong and long-lived signal. This blurs our picture and prohibits us from quantifying important characteristics, such as individual cell dimensions, or packing of nerve fibres. The sensitivity of MRI to smaller molecular movements and weaker signals is mainly limited by the available magnetic field gradients (controlled alterations in the field strength within the scanner). We have persuaded MRI manufacturers to build a bespoke MRI system with ultra-strong gradients (7 times stronger than available on standard MRI scanners) to be situated in the new Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre. One similar system currently exists (in Boston, USA) but is used predominantly to make qualitative pictures of the brain's wiring pattern. Our team has the unique combination of expertise to develop and exploit this hardware in completely new directions. By designing new physics methods to 'tune' the scanner to important (otherwise invisible) signals, developing new biophysical models to explain these signals, and suppressing unwanted signals, we will be able to quantify important tissue properties for the first time. Making such a system usable poses several key engineering challenges, such as modelling of electromagnetic fields, to deal with confounds that become significant with stronger gradients, and modelling of the effects on nerves/cardiac tissue, to impose safety constraints. However, the current work of the consortium of applicants provides strong starting points for overcoming these challenges. Established methods for accelerating MR data acquisition will be compromised with stronger gradients, requiring development of new physics methods for fast data collection. Once achieved, faster acquisition and access to newly-visible signal components will enable us to develop new mathematical models of microstructure incorporating finer length-scales to increase understanding of tissue structure in health and disease, and to make testable predictions on important biophysical parameters such as nerve conduction velocities in the brain. This will result in earlier and more accurate diagnoses, more specific and better-targeted therapy, improved treatment monitoring, and overall improved patient outcome. The ultimate goal is to develop the imaging software that brings this hardware to mass availability, in turn enabling a new generation of mainstream microstructure imaging and macrostructural connectivity mapping techniques to translate to frontline practice.

  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: EP/W035057/1
    Funder Contribution: 1,265,850 GBP
    Partners: University College London Hospital (UCLH) NHS Foundation Trust, Brainbox Ltd, Magstim Co Ltd (The), Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, Henry Royce Institute, Alzheimer's Society, Tourettes Action, UK DRI Care Research & Technology Centre, NIHR MindTech MedTech Co-operative, Polymer Bionics Ltd...

    The Neuromod+ network will represent UK research, industry, clinical and patient communities, working together to address the challenge of minimally invasive treatments for brain disorders. Increasingly, people suffer from debilitating and intractable neurological conditions, including neurodegenerative diseases and mental health disorders. Neurotechnology is playing an increasingly important part in solving these problems, leading to recent bioelectronic treatments for depression and dementia. However, the invasiveness of existing approaches limits their overall impact. Neuromod+ will bring together neurotechnology stakeholders to focus on the co-creation of next generation, minimally invasive brain stimulation technologies. The network will focus on transformative research, new collaborations, and facilitating responsible innovation, partnering with bioethicists and policy makers. As broadening the accessibility of brain modification technology my lead to unintended consequences, considering the ethical and societal implications of these technological development is of the utmost importance, and thus we will build in bioethics research as a core network activity. The activities of NEUROMOD+ will have global impact, consolidating the growing role of UK neurotechnology sector.