brainscanA Centre of Excellence has been launched that aims to translate the wealth of new information about the function of the human mind and brain obtained from neuroimaging into clinically relevant applications.

The Centre for Translational Neuroimaging for Mental Health was launched on October 30 by the Institute of Mental Health in Nottingham, a partnership between Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust and The University of Nottingham. It brings together the expertise of the Sir Peter Mansfield Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Centre, the Institute of Mental Health and clinicians at Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust to translate research into practice to improve mental healthcare.

There are number of mental health research projects and activities linking into the Centre. Current projects are focused on specific clinical needs for improving care of psychotic disorders including schizophrenia, depression, and developmental disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

One of the projects that the Centre is currently working on is the development of a computer game that aims to help children with ADHD. Neuroimaging studies suggest that weak signalling of success or failure within the brain may make children with ADHD slower than their peers to master control over their attention and actions.

Using eye-tracking technology, the computer game (RECOGNeyes), is controlled by the child’s eyes. Their progress in the game is linked to increased control over their direction of gaze and early pilot data suggests that this may provide the immediate rewards that people with ADHD need for such skills to become habitual.

The new Centre will join other specific Centres of Excellence hosted at the Institute covering areas such as health and criminal justice, ADHD, advancing social interventions that promote mental health recovery and address inequalities, dementia and education.

Professor Peter Liddle, Director of the new centre, said: “Despite major advances in our understanding of the brain and mental disorders over the past 20 years, the long-term outcome of these disorders remains only marginally better than a century ago.

“Research staff within the Centre will work hard to develop and implement practical procedures to utilise what we already know about brain structure and function of the brain in psychotic disorders to improve the reliability of diagnosis and prediction of future treatment needs.

“We now have a real and exciting prospect of neuroimaging enhancing clinical practice in a way that substantially improves mental healthcare.”