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Joseph A. Helpern, Director, Ph.D.

Joseph A. Helpern, PhD, Director of the Center for Biomedical Imaging and SmartState Endowed Chair in Brain Imaging, has made a number of significant contributions to the field of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Most recently, he and long-time colleague Jens Jensen, PhD, invented a refinement of diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) called diffusional kurtosis imaging (DKI), which has been licensed to Siemens Medical and other companies. Unlike DTI, which assumes a normal or Gaussian diffusion of water, DKI accounts for the non-Gaussian diffusion of water created by barriers to diffusion like cell membranes, providing a much finer discrimination of tissue microarchitecture. Helpern is using DKI to identify early changes in the microarchitecture of brain tissue that could be predictive of the early stages of Alzheimer’s and to indicate additional areas of brain involvement in stroke that could be targeted for rehabilitation. Helpern has also shown that DKI can be used to track the development of the brain in children, with the degree of kurtosis increasing as structural discrimination in the brain becomes more pronounced. Preliminary data show an aberrant pattern of kurtosis development in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which could help pinpoint the areas of the brain and the time points in development most important for this condition.


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