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Dr. Dick Drost

Dr. Dick Drost Ph. D.

Our research group applies in vivo magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MR) techniques to find and understand the underlying causes of diseases such as Schizophrenia. Magnetic resonance spectroscopy employs a strong static magnetic field and radio frequency (rf) fields to identify and measure the concentration of biochemicals in vivo in the body and also in vitro as a chemical assay technique. The underlying physics principal is that many nuclei such as hydrogen and phosphorus have magnetic moments which cause a splitting of energy levels when placed in a strong magnetic field. When these energy levels are excited with an rf pulse, an rf signal can be measured when the nuclei relax. Since the frequency of the rf signal depends on the molecular structure in which a nucleus resides, a frequency analysis of the signal can determine what molecules are present and the signal amplitude will be proportional to the molecular concentration.

In the past two decades this principal has been applied in medical imaging to produce magnetic resonance images of the human body via the rf signals from hydrogen nuclei in water and fat. In the past decade, the same magnetic resonance imaging equipment has been extended to measure in vivo metabolite concentrations of hydrogen and phosphorus containing molecules. Typical in vivo metabolites are glutamate, a neurotransmitter in the brain, and ATP, the cellular energy source.

Our research has concentrated on optimizing the in vivo acquisitions to improve the quality of our measurements in patients and in quantifying the results. The goal has been to reliably measure differences in metabolite levels between patients and matched normals to try to determine what is different in for example the brains of schizophrenics. This question is very important since Schizophrenia is an incurable disease that strikes in the late teens and early twenties in about 1 % of the population, and results in a poor social and work function for the rest of a schizophrenic's life. Since we do not understand the cause of this disease very little can be done for schizophrenics, currently, a situation our research is trying to remedy.

Our research group includes Dr. Peter Williamson, a psychiatrist, Dr. Ravi Menon, an MR physicist.