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Dr David Thomas
Leonard Wolfson Experimental Neurology Centre
Department of Brain Repair and Rehabilitation
UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
  • Principal Research Associate
  • Brain Repair & Rehabilitation
  • UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
  • Faculty of Brain Sciences

After obtaining a 1st class degree in Physics from Imperial College London, I began my Ph.D. in the Medical Physics Department of University College London (UCL) in October 1995. Based in Prof David Gadian’s lab at the Institute of Child Health and under the supervision of Prof Roger Ordidge, my project was the implementation and development of MR methods for the investigation of cerebral ischaemia in animal models, in particular arterial spin labelling (ASL) for the non-invasive measurement of cerebral perfusion.

In January 2000, I became a Senior Research Fellow in the Wellcome Trust High Field MR Research Laboratory. This was a newly established research lab containing a 4.7T whole body MR scanner. I was involved with the setting up of structural and functional imaging and addressing the problems associated with high field MRI. In December 2004, I was awarded a four-year Wellcome Trust Research Career Development Fellowship to work on the further development and clinical implementation of ASL for CBF mapping. This work involved the design and construction of RF hardware, pulse sequence development to more accurately characterise the source of the ASL signal, and the assessment of various image denoising methods to improve the accuracy of CBF estimates.

In June 2010, I was appointed as a senior lecturer in MR physics at the UCL Institute of Neurology (IoN). This position encompassed two main fields of research: preclinical imaging on a 9.4T small bore scanner, developing new imaging methods for use in animal models of neurological diseases, and translation of these new technologies to the research and clinical scanners at the IoN and the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery. In this way, we were able to establish a direct link between the basic science of the preclinical models and the clinical applications, and as a result were able to start using advanced MRI methods (such as ASL, multi-shell DWI, CEST) as an integral part of our clinical research studies.

Since the beginning of 2014, I have taken the role of principal MR physicist at the recently established Leonard Wolfson Experimental Neurology Centre (LWENC) at the IoN. LWENC is a dedicated, specialist centre for the conduct of first-in-human studies of novel therapies for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, and uses imaging as a non-invasive method to assess and monitor the efficacy of these novel therapies. In this post, I am continuing the development of imaging biomarkers to improve the usefulness and reliability of MRI as an indicator of brain physiology and structural integrity.

Research Summary

I am the principal MR physicist at the UCL Leonard Wolfson Experimental Neurology Centre (www.ucl.ac.uk/lwenc). My role is to:

  • Develop novel imaging biomarkers for use in clinical studies of neurodegenerative disease
  • Improve the accuracy and efficiency of current methods by optimising acquisition schemes and applying cutting-edge fast imaging techniques
  • Set up and optimise comprehensive MR imaging protocols for large (multi-centre) clinical studies

The main MRI techniques I work with include:

  • Arterial Spin Labeling (ASL) to measure tissue perfusion (blood flow)
    • in collaboration with Prof Xavier Golay, Dr Enrico De Vita, Prof Isky Gordon, Fabio Nery, Dr Jack Wells, Jack Highton
  • Chemical Exchange Saturation Transfer (CEST), which is sensitive to protein levels, temperature and exogenously administered glucose (among others!)
    • in collaboration with Prof Xavier Golay, Patxi Torrealdea, Marilena Rega
  • Susceptibility mapping to visualise brain structures with different iron content and myelination
    • in collaboration with Dr Karin Shmueli, Dr Simon Walker-Samuel, Eoin O'Fionnachta
  • Advanced high angular resolution, multi-b value diffusion-weighted imaging to investigate tissue microstructure and pathology
    • in collaboration with Dr Claudia Wheeler-Kingshott, Prof Danny Alexander, Dr Gary Zhang, Dr Olga Ciccarelli
  • High resolution structural imaging to maximise tissue contrast and image detail (in vivo and ex vivo)
    • in collaboration with Prof Tarek Yousry, Dr Mohamed Tachrount, Prof Nikolaus Weiskopf

Teaching Summary

I currently have the following teaching responsibilities:

M.Sc. in Advanced Neuroimaging, UCL Institute of Neurology
  • Convener for Module P2: Imaging Modalities
  • Lectures
    • Why is MRI so popular? The MRI scanner and MR applications
    •  Imaging of Cerebral Perfusion

M.Sc in Dementia, , UCL Institute of Neurology
  • Coordinator for Imaging optional module

M.Sc. in Advanced Biomedical Imaging, UCL CABI
  • Lecturer: Imaging in Dementia

01-JAN-2014 Principal Research Associate Wolfson Experimental Neurology Centre UCL Institute of Neurology, United Kingdom
01-JUN-2010 – 31-DEC-2010 Senior Lecturer Brain Repair and Rehabilitation UCL Institute of Neurology, United Kingdom
01-JUN-2005 – 31-MAY-2010 Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow Medical Physics and Bioengineering UCL, United Kingdom
01-JAN-2000 – 31-MAY-2005 Senior Research Fellow Medical Physics and Bioengineering UCL, United Kingdom
Academic Background
1999   Doctor of Philosophy University College London
1995   Bachelor of Science (Honours) Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine
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