New cutting-edge facility to transform brain research in South West

Cutting the first turf for the new centre are, from left: Ann James, Dr Gary Smerdon, Professor Judith Petts CBE and Professor Stephen Hall

Work has begun on a new facility that will host the most advanced brain research technology in the South West Peninsula.

The Brain Research & Imaging Centre (BRIC) will host the most advanced front-line 3-Tesla MRI scanner in the region, and accommodate seven human neuroimaging research laboratories.

The multi-million pound project is a unique collaboration between the University of Plymouth, the research charity DDRC Healthcare and University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust (UHPNT), and will also provide improved facilities for hyperbaric medicine – used to help deep sea divers – along with delivery of advanced training.

The facility will be an extension to the existing DDRC Healthcare building in Plymouth Science Park, and the first turf was cut today (Monday 8 April) by Professor Judith Petts, CBE, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Plymouth, Ann James, Chief Executive of University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, Dr Gary Smerdon, Chief Executive Officer of DDRC Healthcare, and Professor Stephen Hall, Director of BRIC.

The MRI scanner will be used by the University to enhance research into conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and autism, and by UHPNT for its neurological research to improve patient outcomes.

The work taking place in the other BRIC laboratories will range from exploring cognition and behaviour – understanding why people behave in certain ways – to motor control, allowing detailed investigation into neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis. BRIC will also provide new teaching space for postgraduate students in human neuroscience.

Building work is set to be completed in spring 2020 and Professor Stephen Hall from the University of Plymouth, Director of the Brain Research & Imaging Centre (BRIC), is excited about its prospects. He said:

“Our research in Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience is currently ranked in the top 20 of UK Universities. The addition of BRIC, and its cutting-edge facilities, will support our ambition to become one of the best brain research organisations in the world. We are proud to be working with DDRC Healthcare and UHPNT to make this work possible. I look forward to seeing the results impact on research, and transfer into patient care to help those who need it most.”

Dr Gary Smerdon, DDRC Healthcare Chief Executive, said:

“Every aspect of this project will allow DDRC Healthcare to grow and develop. It is a true collaboration that consolidates our many years of working with the University of Plymouth and the NHS. The co-location of neurological research excellence, state-of-the-art imaging facilities and a hyperbaric medical centre will move us to the forefront of international research and training.”

Ann James, Chief Executive of University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, said:

“BRIC is one of several exciting joint ventures between UHP and the University to embrace innovation in health care. The new facility will provide patients from across the region with even more access to state-of-the-art imaging technology, and we look forward to the benefits the research opportunities will bring.”