About the Research

Differences in the structure of the brain can help explain some of the variability we see between individuals, from how the world is seen and perceived through to diseases of brain function that can affect people in markedly different ways.

The Anatomical Phenomics group, based at the Department of Imaging Neuroscience, studies the link between brain structure and inter-individual variability. The team have developed a number of novel brain imaging techniques to study how microstructural differences in the brain relate to the variability observed in health and disease. They also work to combine data across biological scales derived from the same individuals, from cell models and gene expression through to longitudinal changes in whole brain structure, to help understand the mechanisms of disease at a single subject level.

Led by Dr Christian Lambert, a Consultant Neurologist in Movement Disorders at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, UCLH and Neuroscientist at UCL, their vision is to develop clinical tools to identify and accurately diagnose neurodegenerative conditions at an early stage, help provide precision treatments tailored to individuals, and create a framework where disease-modifying therapies can be started before brain tissue has been irreversibly lost.

Quantitative MRI for Anatomical Phenotyping in Parkinson’s disease (qMAP-PD)

Parkinson’s is the second most common neurodegenerative condition. It is diagnosed based on clinical signs, that become detectable once 60-70% of brain cells that produce dopamine, in an area called the substantia nigra, have been irreversibly lost. However, Parkinson’s is thought to begin between 10 and 20 years before this, with some of the earliest changes found within areas of the brain that include the brainstem and enteric plexus. When Parkinson’s manifests, both its presentation and progression is highly variable between individuals. While groups at high risk of developing Parkinson’s can be identified, it is not possible to accurately predict who will later develop the condition.

qMAP-PD is an on-going, longitudinal observational research study conducted by the Anatomical Phenomics team. It uses the latest anatomical imaging methods, combined with detailed clinical phenotyping, genotyping and other blood-based biomarkers to investigate variability in the presentation and progression of early and pre-clinical Parkinson’s.

It aims to develop ways to predict how quickly the disease will progress based on an individual’s brain structure, and diagnose the condition during the pre-clinical phase.

Find more about the research here!