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Dr. Richards studies metabolic changes and functional relationships in the brain during the progression of neurodegenerative diseases and during language processing. His brain imaging projects involve functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of language, memory, pain, face perception, and states of consciousness. He also studies EEG event-related potentials that are co-registered to MRI and fMRI during the cognitive task of face perception. Proton MR spectroscopy is also used in several projects to study neurochemical changes in neurological disorders. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), functional connectivity, and perfusion imaging are also used.
By use of proton echo-planar spectroscopic imaging (PEPSI), Richards and colleagues measure various brain metabolites (lactate, N-acetyl-aspartate, choline, and creatine) to try to identify brain regions that are normally activated during language processing and which may be dysfunctional in children with dyslexia. Studies led by Richards comparing brain changes in children with and without dyslexia should elucidate critical features of genetic, developmental, and environmental interactions among influences affecting the severity of the disability. He is also involved in using fast spectroscopic imaging to observe decreases in N-acetyl-asparate and choline-containing compounds in animal models of multiple sclerosis (MS) and in humans with MS. Richards hopes to shed light on the neurophysiologic cause of MS and determine why clinically silent MRI lesions are present in MS patients.
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