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The Carlson Imaging Lab specializes in multimodal magnetic resonance (MR) and near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) imaging of children’s brains. We are located at the Alberta Children’s Hospital and are also part of the Calgary Pediatric Stroke Program. For more information regarding our current projects, please see our Projects page.

Stroke

Stroke can happen at any age. Perinatal stroke occurs during the last few months of pregnancy to one month of age. Childhood stroke occurs between one month and 18 years of age. It is still not clear what causes stroke in many cases.

Stroke in children is more common than most people think. Often children are left with challenges when trying to move parts of their bodies. This is often called Cerebral Palsy and is a lifelong condition. The motor difficulties experienced by each child can be very different from another. Some children have very mild difficulties, others have great difficulties in moving their limbs. For more information about perinatal or childhood stroke, please see the Education page on our main Calgary Pediatric Stroke Program website.

Neuroplasticity

The term neuroplasticity embodies the hope that the brain can recover after injury. For tens of thousands of perinatal and childhood stroke survivors, this process of re-organizing sensory and motor systems is going on right now. Under the guidance of qualified, patient-centred physical and occupational therapists, rehabilitation can help restore motor and sensory function to the weaker limb.

Neuroimaging

Neuroimaging refers to different ways of acquiring images of the brain. We use Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) which uses strong electromagnets to measure different brain tissues, chemicals and blood flow. This technique is non-invasive and does not require the use of chemicals. In fact, most of the time, children can watch a favourite movie while they lay still in our MRI scanner and we take pictures of their brain. We then take the pictures onto other computers to process them while the children head out to the playground!

Our brain imaging studies are focused on finding out what is changing in the brain when function improves (and also when it doesn’t improve). What happens in the brain to make these improvements last in time? How can we measure changes? What kinds of things define a good responder to rehabilitation therapy? How can we customize therapy to turn non-responders into responders?

Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation

Recent advances have demonstrated that non-invasive brain stimulation can improve function when paired with intensive rehabilitation by trained professionals. Recent clinical trials have shown that techniques such as transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) have potential. Our imaging studies also aim to measure what is changing in the brain when this type of therapy is used. The hope is that we can turn children who don’t respond to therapy into responders that do improve their motor function.

Other Neurological Conditions

We also have imaging expertise in children with other neurological conditions such as epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, migraine, chronic pain and developmental coordination disorder but our main focus is childhood and perinatal stroke.