Shih Earns $3.8 million NIH BRAIN Initiative Grant

Yen-Yu Ian Shih, PhD, associate professor of neurology and member of the UNC Biomedical Research Imaging Center, will use cutting-edge neuroscience tools to improve the understanding of fMRI signal in a brain area called striatum.

Shih Earns $3.8 million NIH BRAIN Initiative Grant click to enlarge The Shih Lab. Yen-Yu Ian Shih, PhD, back row, center

Yen-Yu Ian Shih, PhD, associate professor of neurology and member of the UNC Biomedical Research Imaging Center was awarded a four-year, $3.8-million BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative grant from the National Institutes of Health.

It is the eighth such grant issued to UNC School of Medicine researchers since the initiative was launched in 2013 and the third for the Shih lab.

Shih, who is also director of the UNC Center for Animal MRI, became a Yang Family Biomedical Scholar earlier this year for his work on functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI.

For this BRAIN Initiative Study, Shih’s lab will investigate the use of fMRI to study the striatum, a region of the brain involved in cognition, motivation, reward, sensorimotor function, as well as several neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders, such as addiction, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, and major depression.

The scientific community’s understanding of human brain function has been heavily influenced by fMRI – a technique that measures neuronal activity indirectly through blood oxygenation changes. But more and more scientific reports have indicated that scientists’ interpretation of fMRI data could have been wrong in some brain areas, leading scientists to miscalculate the actual neuronal processes.

In this project, the Shih lab will use cutting-edge neuroscience tools to stimulate and record cellular activity as well as neurotransmitter release in the striatum during fMRI to uncover the mechanism by which fMRI signal is formed in this brain area. This information would help scientists better understand the brain function using noninvasive fMRI tools.

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