The New ATHINA Lab: Using MRI to Support mTBI Research
March 25, 2023
By Tina Chen
ATHINA (pronounced Athena), is the ancient Greek Goddess of wisdom and warfare. She reminds us of Concussion Center Faculty, Dr. Eleanna Varangis, as she gracefully shares her knowledge of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and won the tough battle of choosing a lab name, all while maintaining high functioning cognitive capacity for other tasks around the Center. Her victory resulted in the creation of the Assessing Traumatic Head Injury with Neurocognitive Approaches (ATHINA) Lab.
Eleanna Varangis, PhD, Assistant Professor, School of Kinesiology
My lab’s mission is to understand what underlies differences in neurocognitive aging trajectories in individuals with a history of head impacts or concussions. I hope that by learning more about what factors may buffer against cognitive impairment in aging, we can begin to develop interventions to help people stay cognitively healthy for longer. “
The ATHINA Lab aims to explore the effects of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) on neurocognitive outcomes across the adult lifespan. They will utilize functional and structural neuroimaging and cognitive assessments to capture multiple aspects of brain and cognitive health in samples of current and former athletes. Their goal is to gain a more complete understanding of how mTBI affects healthy brain aging trajectories and identify factors that may protect against or exacerbate any deviations from them.
Dr. Varangis, ATHINA Director, recently led a discussion on the “Fundamentals of MRI in mTBI Research” during the Concussion Center’s February Lunch & Learn. Center members may find it helpful to have a general idea of MRI research procedures and how it compares to other methods that capture brain structure and activity, such as computerized tomography (CT) and electroencephalogram (EEG).
During her presentation, Dr. Varangis outlined how increasingly high-resolution MRI images are used to generate incredibly detailed 3D images of the brain and surrounding tissue. Dr. Varangis also touched on the basics of structural and functional MRI (fMRI), the Haemodynamic Response Function, types of MRI scans, analysis of fMRI data, and how fMRI may be useful to gain a better understanding of the effects of mTBI and concussion on the brain and cognitive function.
“My lab’s mission is to understand what underlies differences in neurocognitive aging trajectories in individuals with a history of head impacts or concussions,” said Dr. Varangis, “I hope that by learning more about what factors may buffer against cognitive impairment in aging, we can begin to develop interventions to help people stay cognitively healthy for longer.”
If you have any questions about the ATHINA lab or MRI research, feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.