Advanced Diffusion MRI of the Brain in MS

Start Term
End Term
Funding Amount
University of Alberta
Geographic Region(s) / Province(s)
Research Priorities
Cognition and mental health
Impact Goal(s)
Understand and Halt Disease Progression

Researcher(s):  Dr. Christian Beaulieu 


  • There is a need for advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) methods that will provide a complete assessment of brain tissue injury that correlates well with MS disability and progression. 
  • Dr. Christian Beaulieu and team developed an advanced diffusion MRI method to study brain regions that are difficult to image and measure using current clinical MRI (i.e., cortex, hippocampus, and fornix). They will obtain MRI scans in people with pediatric and adult-onset MS to assess MS-related brain injury across the lifespan. 
  • This research has the potential to enhance MRI methods for improved MS diagnosis and disease management.

Project Description: 
MRI is a critical tool for the diagnosis and monitoring of MS. However, there are current limitations to imaging deeper ‘hidden’ regions of the brain, making it difficult to assess disability and predict future disease progression in people with MS. It is also not known how these brain regions are differently affected across the disease spectrum from pediatric-onset MS to progressive MS in adults.

Dr. Christian Beaulieu and team will develop new MRI methods to examine three complex ‘hidden’ regions of the brain that are difficult to study with standard clinical MRI – the cortex, hippocampus, and fornix. They will use an advanced diffusion MRI method to measure brain cell injury in these regions. The team will acquire MRI scans from people with pediatric- and adult-onset MS and compare it to healthy people. MRI measures will also be compared to cognitive (e.g. memory, attention) and clinical (e.g. fatigue, depression, disability) assessments to determine if MRI scans reflect cognitive and clinical outcomes.

Potential Impact: The findings of this research will provide novel insights on how these ‘hidden’ regions of the brain are affected in people with MS across the lifespan and inform improvements in current MRI methods for better MS diagnosis, monitoring, and assessment of treatment response.

Project Status: In Progress