Magnetic Resonance Imaging - Ultra Low Magnetic Field - Neuroimaging - Medical Image Processing

Álvaro Planchuelo Gómez

Biomedical Engineering Microteam – Diffusion MRI Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC)
My research career

I graduated in Biomedical Engineering at the Polytechnic University of Madrid and obtained a Master's degree in Biostatistics at the Complutense University of Madrid. I then moved to Valladolid and obtained a PhD in Telecommunications Engineering at the University of Valladolid in the Image Processing Laboratory, where my doctoral thesis focused on structural magnetic resonance image processing to analyse brain changes in migraine.

Since June 2021 I am a postdoctoral researcher, starting my Margarita Salas postdoctoral contract in 2022, and since then I have been on an international stay at CUBRIC (Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre), a research centre attached to the School of Psychology at Cardiff University (Cardiff, UK) and whose research is focused on magnetic resonance image processing.

During my PhD and part of my postdoctoral period, I have conducted research on the following topics (excluding my current main research):

  • Analysis of structural changes in the migraine brain using magnetic resonance image processing.
  • Analysis of structural changes in the brain of patients with persistent headache after resolution of the acute phase of COVID-19.
  • Optimisation of the diffusion MRI sequence and T1 and T2 relaxometry using a combination of Deep Learning - Artificial
  • Intelligence techniques and biophysical modelling.
  • Analysis of psychosis subtypes (schizophrenia and bipolar disorder) from brain MRI data, electroencephalogram and cognitive function assessment.
  • Analysis of the psychological effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the general population, university population and patients with migraine and epilepsy.
My research

I study the design of a diffusion MRI acquisition sequence in combination with T1- and T2-weighted sequences using an ultra-low magnetic field scanner. Ultra-low magnetic field MRI scanners are significantly cheaper and can use the usual electrical current, in contrast to high magnetic field scanners (those used in any hospital in Spain), which require additional power and very specific conditions of use. This allows ultra-low magnetic field scanners to be used for imaging in emergency departments or rural settings, considering that they are portable and much smaller in size. However, the images produced are of poorer quality and require specific processing to extract valuable quantitative information. Mainly, from the designed sequence, my work consists in the creation of a set of processing steps (pipeline) of diffusion MRI images in order to extract quantitative diffusion parameters and reconstruct white matter tracts to analyse both the structure of the cerebral white matter and the structural connectivity between grey matter regions from the tractography.

My vision is that the processing of ultra-low magnetic field diffusion-weighted images will make it possible to analyse structural brain changes in people in developing countries, especially in areas without access to high magnetic field MRI equipment. Consequently, this would democratise the use of magnetic resonance imaging. For example, it would be possible to analyse longitudinally the effects of malnutrition in infants who do not have adequate resources for their growth and to design future measures to solve this problem. In addition, the work could improve the quality of health care in places with limited financial resources.