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Research using 7 Tesla MRT: Planning influences perception

(Vienna, 13 Dec. 2010) The 7 Tesla MRT at the Centre of Excellence for high-field MR of the Medical University of Vienna has brought Ross Cunnington and his research on the control of voluntary motor function to Vienna. As one of the leading experts worldwide for mirror neurons at the Australian Brain Research Institute of the University of Queensland, Cunnington will be researching at MedUni Vienna until the start of 2011, and on 17 December he is holding a guest lecture in the Art Nouveau Lecture Hall.

Cunnington’s current project concerns how voluntary motor function works. This is controlled by the motor brain centre and learned via the so-called “mirror neurons”. It is assumed that with this neuron system the observed actions of others are mentally reproduced (mirrored) and thus form the basis for skills such as empathy, understanding, social development and learning. The basis of this assumption is the discovery that observing actions of other people (gestures, facial expressions, posture etc.) motivates people to imitate them.

Based on the latest research findings of Prof. Cunnington, however, a person’s own actions also influence the perception of the actions of others. If a person wants to perform an action, this is “planned” in the area of the brain responsible for motor function, and in turn this planning influences the possibility of perceiving the actions of others. This “filtering” would mean a new understanding of how the motor system works in human brains.

Neuronally active brain regions: at the top in the standard resolution, at the bottom in the detailed high-resolution image using 7 Tesla.

To be able to scientifically substantiate this mutual dependency Cunnington is collecting data with the help of the Vienna 7 Tesla magnetic resonance tomograph. Thanks to the high-resolution functional imaging, brain activities can be observed precisely here. This is being done in close cooperation with Ass. Prof. Priv. Doz. DI Dr. Christian Windischberger and Ao. Univ. Prof. Dr. DI Ewald Moser, scientific head of the Centre of Excellence for high-field MR. At the Centre of Medical Physics and Biomedical Technology of MedUni Vienna Windischberger and Moser are working on similar research projects and in the past have already worked together successfully with the Australian brain researcher.

Guest lecture of Prof. Ross Cunington
17 December 2010, 1-3 pm
Jugendstilhörsaal, Rectorate Building, Level 2

» 7-Tesla ultrahigh-field MR at MedUni Vienna