Project Summary

The Direct Imaging of Neuronal Activity (DIANA) method provides a non-invasive measure of neuronal activity. To reveal the biophysical underpinnings of the DIANA signal we will leverage a modified 7T MRI system developed by CI Cloos’s lab at the Centre for Advanced Imaging to measure neuronal activity in human brain organoids developed in CI Wolvetang’s lab at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) and next validate such signals in human subjects using visual stimuli designed by CI Rideaux’s Lab in the School of Psychology at the University of Sydney.

AIM 1: Study the biophysical underpinning of DIANA. By chemically eliciting neuronal activation and inhibition in human brain organoids over minute-long timescales, we will obtain unequivocal proof of the existence of direct neuronal MRI signals, and identify its precise biophysical origins by quantifying the physical parameters that generate signal contrast in MRI.

AIM 2: Characterise the biophysical limitations of DIANA. By leveraging MRI compatible optogenetic setup with embedded MRI coils and human brain organoids modified to carry dual opsins we will elicit neuronal activation and inhibition at timescales similar to in vivo activity and quantify the temporal specificity of the DIANA signal.

AIM 3: Optimise DIANA acquisition strategies for human imaging. As of today, application of DIANA is limited to small animals, but the ultimate goal is to advance our understanding of how brain activity underpins the human mind. Leveraging our new knowledge of DIANA’s biophysical underpinnings, we will design and optimise acquisition strategies for human DIANA experiments.

Anticipated benefits and outcomes: new technology unique to Australia, that can identify DIANA’s biophysical underpinning and quantify its sensitivity and specificity. The new knowledge generated in this project is expected to enable non-invasive imaging of neuronal activity in humans with the spatial and temporal resolution needed to study the neuronal circuitry that drives high-level brain functions, i.e. creating a window into the mind.

Project members

Professor Ernst J. Wolvetang

Senior Group Leader
Wolvetang Group
UQ-StemCARE Director