We are involved in a number of projects, all related to cerebral blood flow and metabolism. Here is a brief summary, but for more information please check out our publications or contact us direct.
Our work is part of a longer-term goal of improving global brain health. Although cardiovascular disease has traditionally been the most common cause of death, this is now rapidly changing, partly due to successes in the treatment of cardiac disease, but also due to the results of an increasingly ageing population. In many Western countries, dementia has now become the biggest cause of death: with many other countries on the same trajectory, now is the time to tackle these highly debilitating diseases. In particular, these cerebrovascular diseases lead to high levels of disability and loss of quality of life, often imposing substantial care burdens on relatives and care systems.
Mathematical models play a key role in better understanding the brain’s development in old age and the effects of interventions (both positive and negative) on the risks and development of cerebrovascular disease, due to the difficulties in obtaining experimental and clinical data. A Virtual Population has now become an important tool in assessing the response to interventions and reducing the cost and time to bring interventions to the bedside. Multi-scale models are a vital component of such models in order to make them computationally feasible, since it is not possible to simulate every blood vessel and brain cell.
However, only multiple length scales have yet been considered in models of the brain. Although our prior work has enabled computationally reasonable models of the whole brain to be constructed for the first time, the only time scales that have yet been studied run from seconds (cardiac cycles) to minutes (stroke events) and hours (tissue damage and death). Many cerebral diseases take place over much longer time scales (months, years and decades), requiring a whole new set of multi-scale mathematical models. The aim of our current work is thus to develop the necessary mathematical tools, generating novel computational models and performing extensive validation to develop a Virtual Population that can be exploited to tackle a range of different cerebral diseases, in particular dementia. Our work will also examine the effects of three different interventions on brain development: sleep, hypertension and exercise.
The long-term goal of this work is thus to identify the key risk factors for cerebral diseases (both vascular and degenerative), to quantify how deterioration and impairment can be reduced, and to determine whether this can be used to guide an individual to the best intervention(s) to improve their brain health and to reduce the lifetime risk of these cerebral diseases. By doing so, we will develop a whole new methodology to tackle brain disease and hence to improve the quality of life for all.