Research

Area 4

Neuropsychology

Team leader

  • Carme Junqué
    (Facultat de Medicina)

Strategic objectives

To study the consequences of cerebral lesions and dysfunctions in behaviour and cognition. The technique preferentially used in our studies is magnetic resonance imaging, in its structural and functional applications. Our neuroimaging laboratory is equipped with several high-performance workstations as well as with neuronavigation transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) equipment. We use a multimodal approach to study connectivity changes associated with aging and degenerative illness as well as the mechanisms of brain reorganization after traumatic brain injury.

Main lines of research

  1. Neuropsychology and neuroimaging in normal aging and in degenerative diseases:
    Neuroanatomical and neurofunctional bases of cognitive impairment in normal aging, Pakinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. This line makes use of combined structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging to detect early alterations in brain connectivity prior to clear cerebral atrophy caused by neuronal death. Identification of the symptoms prior to actual clinical manifestations in degenerative diseases is a challenge for treatment intervention aimed to slow the neurodegenerative processes. As a subline, mention should be made of the study of the contribution of the so-called ‘cognitive or brain reserve’ variables as modulators of the relationships between brain damage and its clinical and cognitive expression associated with age and dementia, as well as of the neuroanatomical and neurophysiological bases of this phenomenon.
  2. Cerebral plasticity: Long-term consequences of brain damage. In the field of cerebral plasticity we investigate the changes in brain structure and function detectable by magnetic resonance imaging that are induced by transcranial electric stimulation. This technique can be used to simulate reversible lesions or to investigate the changes in brain connectivity in normal subjects and also in degenerative processes. Another line of interest in which work is being done is the study of cerebral language response in patients who as a result of head injuries are in a chronic vegetative state or minimally responsive state. Brain response in the absence of motor response can have clear consequences in the differential diagnosis of these two conditions. Likewise in head injury patients, we study the relationship between the long-term cognitive sequelae and the white matter alterations identified by diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), and also analyze the changes in the cortical thickness related to alterations attributable to diffuse axonal damage.
  3. Development of imaging techniques to study the areas of the brain implicated in the higher function alterations in epileptic patients, based on functional magnetic resonance imaging.
    The aim of this line of research is to develop cognitive paradigms such as those relating to speech, perception or memory, based on functional magnetic resonance imaging techniques - validating and applying them to clinical practice with a view to predicting neuropsychological sequelae and investigating cerebral plasticity mechanisms.