I am interested in using non-invasive imaging techniques, such as magnetic resonance imaging, in order to help scientists and clinicians better understand brain health and disease, and how to treat an unhealthy brain. MRIs are incredibly useful for these purposes as, unlike an X-ray or a CT scan, they do not give off any harmful radiation, so people can be scanned multiple times, including babies and pregnant mothers. Additionally, MRIs are magnificently diverse in what information they can provide, including high resolution anatomical information, the activity of the brain, specific chemicals or metabolites and their concentrations, and more. Additionally, when these scans are combined, they can often give us more information together than the sum of their parts. I am interested in improving these techniques, exploring how they can be combined in novel ways, and ultimately in seeing how they can be used to tell us something new about the brain that we did not know before. It is in doing so that I hope to help treat various insults, injuries and diseases of the brain in order to help people lead better lives, or in the case of infants, setting them up on the right track.
Quantitative Analysis of Punctate White Matter Lesions in Neonates Using Quantitative Susceptibility Mapping and R2* Relaxation.
AJNR. American journal of neuroradiology
Pathological Insights From Quantitative Susceptibility Mapping and Diffusion Tensor Imaging in Ice Hockey Players Pre and Post-concussion.
Frontiers in neurology
A preliminary study of functional connectivity of medication naïve children with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Progress in neuro-psychopharmacology & biological psychiatry
Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy of prefrontal white matter in psychotropic naïve children and adolescents with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
A preliminary study on the effects of acute ethanol ingestion on default mode network and temporal fractal properties of the brain.
Magma (New York, N.Y.)
Metabolite measurements in the caudate nucleus, anterior cingulate cortex and hippocampus among patients with mitochondrial disorders: a case-control study using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy.
Current Research Projects
I am currently finishing several projects from my postdoctoral research fellowship, and am looking for exciting new collaborations as I begin my assistant professorship.
One project I am involved with and which we are still in the middle of recruiting subjects and volunteers looks at how the cardiovascular health of people with spinal cord injuries potentially leads to poor brain health as well. It is a well known fact that spinal cord injuries can lead to further health problems in the years following the injury, one of which is general cardiovascular health. What is not known, however, is how this may affect brain health. If the cerebral vascular health of a subject is altered, this may have long term consequences for the subject, including cognitive problems and depression. By are using a state-of-the-art machine that allows us to manipulate the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide that someone breathes, while they are being scanned, we can acquire information about how well the brain’s veins are responding to these gas volumes. By comparing these values to healthy controls, we hope to better understand what sort of differences may exist for subjects with spinal cord injuries, which may help clinicians and investigators to create better treatment methods.
Speaking of cerebral vascular health, I am in the process of finishing a manuscript in which we scanned healthy term infants, along with both preterm and term infants who were born with complications that lead to a deprivation of oxygen. The purpose of this study is to see whether a relatively new MRI method, known as susceptibility imaging, could tell us about the amount of oxygen that is left over in several majors veins. By doing so, we are interested to see if preterm and term infants with these brain injuries are not metabolizing oxygen as well as they should be. Curiously, we discovered that preterm infants did indeed have leftover oxygen in their veins, suggesting that their brain health was reduced, whereas the injured term infants had similar levels as healthy controls. This suggests that term infants may have recovered from their injuries better than preterm infants.
Finally, one project which I was not able to finish but I believe still has a lot of potential is in using advanced MRI techniques, such as FLAIR2 and QSM, in order to better visualize and detect something known as focal cortical dysplasia (FCD). FCD is a common cause of medically difficult to detect and treat form of epilepsy in children and adults. By optimizing these techniques, I hope to greatly improve image contrast and resolution, and ultimately improve FCD detection and classification, which will ultimately result in improved diagnosis and treatment.Grants
BC Children's Hospital Research Institute: Clinical & Translational Research Seed Grant - Cerebral Perfusion And Oxygenation in Hypoxic Ischemic Neonates - $5,000 – Feb 2016-Feb 2017
BC Children's Hospital Research Institute: Brain, Behaviour and Development Catalyst Grant - Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Focal Cortical Dysplasia - $10,000 – Feb 2017-Feb 2019Honours & Awards
BC Children's Hospital Research Institute: Child & Family Research Institute M.I.N.D. Postdoctoral Fellowship - $100,000 - July 2016 – July 2018
School of Biomedical Engineering, McMaster University - Dr. David Williams Award in Biomedical Engineering - $1,000 - November 2012
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council - NSERC Postgraduate Scholarship (PGS D) - $63,000 – 2010-2012
Neuroscience Program, University of Toronto - UofT Neuroscience Program CAN-2009 Travel Award - $500 - May 2009
University of Toronto – UofT Fellowship - $1,600 – September 2008
Department of Physiology, University of Toronto - UofT Dept. of Physiology Scholarship - $2,000 – September 2007
Department of Chemistry, University of Toronto - David L. Coffen Memorial Scholarship in Organic Chemistry - $800 - February 2006
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council - NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award - $6,500 - Summer 2005
Understanding the human mind is a millennia’s old pursuit, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that researchers were first able to peer into the brain without using a scalpel. Dr. Alexander Weber is a new investigator researching how to improve and combine different ways of using imaging to give doctors the information they need to improve childhood health.