S04: A Window to the Brain: Neuroimaging Technologies for Integrative Medicine Research

Vitaly Napadow1, Richard Harris2, Richard Davidson3

1Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, USA;2University of Michigan, USA; 3University of Wisconsin-Madiso, USA


Since the brain is the primary target for many mind-body and integrative medicine interventions, non-invasive and minimally-invasive measures of human brain physiology should be appropriate targets for identifying robust biomarkers as surrogate endpoints in treatment studies. This symposium will highlight various complementary brain imaging methods that are used for discovery of target-engagement biomarkers linked to the basic processes involved in a disorder, and disease-related biomarkers that occur later in the pathophysiological cascade and may therefore relate more strongly to subjective clinical outcomes, such as pain report. All presentations will introduce the methods underlying the different neuroimaging technologies. The presenters will also discuss CAM-relevant applications, as different CAM modalities pose variable methodological challenges in the application of different neuroimaging technologies. Dr. Vitaly Napadow will introduce functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and discuss applications such as how alterations in the spatiotemporal patterns of spontaneous brain oscillations during rest can serve as potential neuromarkers, and candidate outcomes for clinical trials of CAM interventions such as acupuncture. Dr. Richard Harris will introduce magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) and positron emission tomography (PET) as imaging technologies allowing researchers to gain insight into central neurobiological mechanisms of integrative medicine approaches. These techniques enable valid and reliable measurements of important neurotransmitters and neuromodulators in the living human brain, thus providing metrics that can be used as potential clinically-relevant biomarkers. Finally, Dr. Richard Davidson will discuss electro-encephalography (EEG), which allows for a much richer sampling of the temporal dynamics underlying neuronal activity, as well as fMRI applications to investigate mind-body interventions such as meditation. A multi-modal neuroimaging approach to evaluate human brain physiology shows promise in opening a window into the basic brain mechanisms by which various CAM modalities exert beneficial effects on human health.