Dr. Ryan C.N. D'Arcy, Ph.D. Neuroscience

Research

The focus of our research is on basic and clinical neuroscience, with both intertwined where possible. We use a wide array of advanced brain imaging modalities to study functional systems and help patients with neurological conditions.

Systems and Cognitive Neuroscience

White matter activation in fMRI: Nearly half of brain tissue is white matter. In spite of a strong bias against it, our team has shown that fMRI can detect functional activation in white matter. This discovery is opening up advances in functional connectivity, new measures of white matter integrity, and studies of the physiological basis of fMRI.

Brain function is similar to weather systems. It has spatial and temporal components, can be focal and distributed, and is multidimensional. Consequently, a multimodal imaging approach is needed to characterize activation changes through neural architectures when information is processed. Technologies and methods include:

  • High field magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
  • Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS)
  • High-density magnetoencephalography (MEG)
  • Magnetic source imaging (MSI)
  • High-density electroencephalography (EEG)
  • Current source imaging (CSI)
  • Evoked and event-related potentials (EPs/ERPs)
  • Rapid transcranial magnetic stimulation ((TMS)

Translational and Clinical Neuroscience

Brain function enables the development of next-generation diagnostics and therapeutics. Overcoming the challenges and barriers to the clinic requires a focus on translational neuroscience.

Neurosurgical treatment of tumours and epilepsy: Canada's Brain Surgery Simulator is the first patient-specific simulator for neurosurgical planning. The simulator uses virtual reality, haptic feedback, and full anatomical and functional planning capabilities. Similar to the way flight simulators train pilots, we use the simulator technology to do virtual surgery on a patient's brain before entering the operating room.

The brain has the capability to recover well beyond conventional expectations: Neural plasticity can be tracked to guide rehabilitation. Changes in activation can be shown more than five years after brain injury. These changes in the brain come before changes in behaviour - providing critical feedback when it is needed most.

Brain trauma scanner (the Halifax Consciousness Scan) for "failure to rescue" advances: A portable, rapid, easy-to-use screening medical device for "brain first-aid". Evaluates conscious awareness for a host of brain disorders and diseases (e.g., TBI, Stroke, AD, concussion, etc.). The scanner is deployable in much the same way as the Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) is used for heart first-aid.

Applications and approaches towards this goal include:

  • Novel indications for early diagnosis (Epilepsy & Alzheimer's)
  • Enhanced assessment of functional recovery and plasticity (TBI)
  • Presurgical functional mapping (Tumours & Epilepsy)
  • Consciousness and cognitive assessment (Stroke & TBI)
  • Point-of-care technology development (All brain conditions)
  • Virtual reality simulation development (Surgery)
  • Biomarker identification and characterization (Neurology)