Dr. Helen Carlson, PhD
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Research Assistant Professor
Cumming School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics
Hotchkiss Brain Institute, Brain and Mental Health Research Clinics Initiative
Child Health & Wellness Researcher
Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute
Dr. Carlson is primarily interested in investigating brain neuroplasticity in children with stroke. She uses advanced MRI neuroimaging techniques to examine functional connectivity of brain networks (via resting state MRI), neuronal metabolism (via MR spectroscopy), white matter structural connectivity (via diffusion tensor imaging) and anatomical characteristics (via volumetrics and cortical morphometry). She is also interested in researching new MRI, electroencephalogram (EEG), near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) and machine learning technologies to unlock the mysteries of neuroplastic compensation after early brain injury. The goal of this research is to examine treatment-induced modulations in neural networks and to explore development of future treatment avenues for kids and families affected by stroke to improve lifelong cognitive and motor function and above all, quality of life.
Areas of Research
My research interests encompass many advanced MRI brain imaging techniques and currently focus on mapping neural networks to investigate brain neuroplasticity after early injury. Of particular interest is the use of neuroimaging to measure therapeutic effects of non-invasive brain stimulation on structural and functional networks and how integration of multimodal imaging may identify individualized rehabilitation targets for children with cerebral palsy after stroke to maximize therapeutic effects.
During the course of our rehabilitation clinical trials, we have found that in their normal lives, kids with cerebral palsy (CP) rarely meet others with their same physical disabilities. In addition, families and children with disabilities may feel particularly isolated in the winter. The MEGA-Mess Activity ebook is intended to highlight kids with CP to others who have disabilities (and vice versa). Each page in the activity book will showcase a child with CP and their story. Each child can provide a favourite recipe, scientific experiment, craft or sporty activity (or all four) as well as a short biography about themselves. We would especially appreciate them sharing what they would like to tell other kids, what they do for fun, their hobbies, favourite movie, favourite book, favourite sports teams and more. We hope this activity book will help kids with CP be active and connect with peers.
Traditional brain neuroimaging studies rely heavily on group-level statistics of complex data, often obscuring important individual differences. This emphasizes the need for robust, patient-specific methods of characterizing brain development over the course of childhood. The FIDELITI (Fingerprinting Individual Differences in Lesion Impact Through Imaging) Dashboard provides a novel way to explore differences between an individual’s brain map and a large group of controls. Similar statistical techniques are commonly used to identify departures from typical developmental trajectories (i.e., height and weight developmental trajectory curves). We will extend these concepts to employ sensitive neuroimaging parametric maps and validated functional outcome measures to create a brain health dashboard composed of personalized maps. This will allow us to quantify individualized brain development in children with neurological conditions such perinatal stroke and can potentially be applied to other neurological conditions in children and even to adults.