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Neuroscience and
mental health
at Manchester

Neuroscience and mental health at Manchester


Structural, functional and molecular brain imaging are crucial to research across the breadth of neuroscience and mental health at Manchester. They are of paramount importance to the testing of mechanisms, experimental medicine, stratified medicine and the measurement of outcomes in neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience and mental health research.

We have expert knowledge across the imaging spectrum, with physicists and neurochemists creating innovative technology, techniques and new methods in imaging; life scientists working with animal imaging, and clinical scientists undertaking investigational, diagnostic and human research imaging. This allows us to take a coherent and integrated approach to challenging problems that require insights from multiple disciplines to solve.

We have strong expertise in imaging technology and methods development, and use these novel and established methods to understand and interpret brain function. Across all areas of neuroscience and mental health, we work to see things clearly. The world works better with us.

Positron Emission Tomography (PET)

Our academic centre of excellence in PET-based molecular imaging means we are well equipped to tackle some of the biggest issues facing public health.

The Wolfson Molecular Imaging Centre (WMIC) provides our academics with facilities that only a handful of researchers across the world have access to: two PET scanners, a Siemens Biograph PET-CT hybrid scanner and a Siemens High Resolution Research Tomograph (HRRT) brain scanner ─ the latter being one of only 17 such high-resolution scanners in the world. Our Centre also has the facilities for the generation of positron-emitting isotopes, using its GE PET-Trace cyclotron.

Using these world-class facilities, we have discovered measurements of brain activity that could be used in the future to help detect Alzheimer’s disease in its earliest stages, and lead to improved clinical trials of new treatments to delay or prevent the disease. We are currently using PET imaging to investigate the underlying mechanisms of psychosis, particularly the involvement of neuroinflammation in early psychosis, searching for potential new treatments to prevent psychosis and its recurrence.

We’re working towards earlier diagnosis and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and psychosis. The world works better with us.


Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Our expertise in MRI techniques at Manchester, combined with strong experimental designs, allow us to thoroughly explore underlying disease mechanisms and work towards personalised patient interventions. 

We have a strong and proven track record in MRI; our University owns three MR scanners and offers extensive expertise in the application of MRI, both functional (fMRI) and structural (sMRI), across numerous research areas.

In the areas of cognitive neuroscience and mental health, we use this technology to explore the basic underlying mechanisms of memory, language and emotion, using strong experimental design to improve the spatial and temporal information that is obtained from fMRI, and deliver a deeper understanding of the physiological underpinnings of brain activity.

We have imaging expertise using fMRI to explore disorders such as addiction and depression, by measuring changes in brain function in response to both pharmacological and psychological (“talking”) therapies. The goal of this research is to identify biomarkers within the brain for pharmacological and psychological treatments, which is crucial for developing more personalised interventions for patients. 

We have also used our MRI facilities to pioneer the use of pharmacoMRI in the UK, developing new analysis methods to explore the actions of drug treatments in the brain, an area which continues to expand as the pressure for new and more effective treatments increases. 

Our equipment and expertise combine to advance understanding in neuroscience and mental health. The world works better with us.

Optical imaging

We’re visualising changes in the haemodynamic response to improve interventions for glaucoma and stroke.

In collaboration with Manchester Eye hospital, we are using our expertise in hyperspectral imaging to look at blood oxygenation of the optic nerve head in the early stages of glaucoma, aiming to use our findings to improve the detection and management of glaucoma, and to optimise current treatment and decrease disease progression.

This research approach could help to improve long-term quality of life for patients, and has the potential to save millions for the NHS.

We are one of the first groups to use optical imaging spectroscopy to look at the spatial distribution of the oxygenated state of haemoglobin and how this affects tissue in stroke before, during and after a stroke has occurred.

This research allows us to further understand the underlying mechanisms that take place early on in stroke and can help us to investigate new treatments that will help to improve early intervention for stroke in the future.

We’re working to understand the underlying mechanisms of disease, helping us to facilitate early interventions in the future. The world works better with us.

Neuroimaging beyond the academic sphere

We have strong relationships with several clinical research organisations, sharing our expertise to benefit clinical trials and clinical practice.  

Each medical image that is produced, either in clinical trials or clinical practice, must be carefully and accurately analysed. At Manchester, we have developed revolutionary image-analysis techniques that are now being commercialised by a company called imorphics, which develops software tools that contribute to the speed and accuracy of clinical trials and diagnoses, based on our leading-edge image-analysis techniques.

We also use our imaging expertise to work closely with several companies on precompetitive validation of biomarkers for drug discovery, in areas such as depression, schizophrenia and cognitive disorders. Through biomarker companies such as P1vital, we work with several pharmaceutical companies and help them to make more rapid and effective decisions in the development of drugs for central nervous system disorders.

We're using our imaging expertise to facilitate drug discovery, clinical trials and diagnosis. The world works better with us.