Dr. Ryan D’Arcy takes brain imaging to new frontiers
Brain imaging researcher Dr. Ryan D’Arcy is pioneering the next generation of diagnostic technologies for diseases and disorders of the brain. Unlike traditional brain imaging, which reveals static pictures of the brain, Dr. D’Arcy is creating new ways to capture dynamic images of the brain at work.
“Future diagnostic tests are addressing the vital functions that, all too often, are the devastating consequences of brain disease—like losing language and memory,” Dr. D’Arcy explains. “We use advances in medical imaging technology to non-invasively track the thinking process. We convert this knowledge into better treatment, such as minimizing the impact of removing brain tumours.”
As group leader of the National Research Council (NRC) Institute for Biodiagnostics (Atlantic) and associate professor in Dalhousie’s Department of Radiology and Neuroscience Institute, Dr. D’Arcy has developed state-of-the-art imaging facilities at the IWK and QEII that together constitute some of the most advanced functional brain imaging capabilities in the world. He and his collaborators are studying Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, brain tumours, traumatic brain injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis (MS) and other neurological disorders.
Incorporating functional brain imaging into clinical tools is a major focus for Dr. D’Arcy. He was a key player in developing ‘NeuroTouch,’ a neurosurgery simulator used to perform the world’s first virtual brain surgery ‘dry run’ in Halifax, and is now launching the ‘Halifax Consciousness Scan’ in partnership with Dr. Don Weaver. This handheld device enables medical professionals to quickly and accurately assess a person’s level of consciousness following brain injury, to answer that crucial question: “Is anyone in there?”
On other frontiers, Dr. D’Arcy has achieved what was thought to be impossible, working with PhD student Erin Mazerolle to capture images of ‘white matter’ at work in the brain. This crucial tissue, which connects brain cells together, is impaired in MS and other conditions that researchers will now be able to explore.