Institute for Human Neuroscience
The Institute for Human Neuroscience at Boys Town National Research Hospital is revolutionizing child and adolescent brain research. Located on Boys Town campus in Omaha, Nebraska, it is one of the most cutting-edge neuroscience research facilities in the nation and the only site in the world with two next-generation MEG (magnetoencephalography) systems.
What is a MEG?
MEG (magnetoencephalography) technology uses very sensitive magnetic sensors that are configured within a helmet to measure human brain function. The technology is noninvasive and totally silent, and unique in that it can measure what is happening in the brain at a millisecond level. This high temporal precision allows researchers to image the brain as cognition evolves, thereby allowing dynamic maps of neural activity to be created.
What is fMRI?
fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) is a novel method that allows a high-performance MRI system to be used to measure brain
function with high spatial precision. MRI is typically used to measure brain
structure. Investigators in the Institute for Human Neuroscience often combine MEG imaging with both fMRI and structural MRI (i.e., multimodal imaging) to get the most advanced information on brain structure and function.
The Institute for Human Neuroscience includes a broad collection of laboratories. Studies in the Institute focus on healthy brain development, developmental disabilities such as cerebral palsy, pediatric psychiatric disorders, trauma exposure, the impact of hearing loss on cognitive function in adolescents, healthy and pathological aging, cognitive decline, substance abuse, and other neurological and neuropsychiatric conditions. The Institute also provides extensive support to pediatric neurological care and treatment at Boys Town Hospital.
The Institute's research on pediatric brain health is critical, as it will help define normal brain development in children and enable investigators to understand how the brain changes as kids move through puberty and into young adulthood, which is obviously a period of major cognitive and emotional change. Once the parameters of typical brain development are better understood, the team will be able to identify the impact of traumatic experiences on brain development, as well as the brain changes associated with the emergence of anxiety disorders, depression, and other conditions. Without a deep understanding of healthy brain development, it is exceedingly difficult to develop new types of therapies for these neurodevelopmental disorders.
The Institute for Human Neuroscience is setting the pace for neuroscience research, especially regarding pediatric neuroimaging and developmental neuroscience. Having the Institute directly on the Boys Town campus means the research findings can be directly used to improve treatments and help change the way America cares for children and families, everywhere.