New facility opens to transform brain research in South West

Pictured (L-R) are Professor Bob Fern, UoP; Ann James, UHPNT; Professor Stephen Hall, UoP; Keith Walker, UoP; Professor Judith Petts CBE, UoP; Professor Gary Smerdon, DDRC Healthcare

A new state-of-the-art facility to advance brain research in the South West and beyond has opened at Plymouth Science Park.

The Brain Research & Imaging Centre (BRIC) is home to seven cutting-edge human neuroimaging research laboratories to help better understand brain activity and human behaviour.

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). It forms part of the expansion of the Hyperbaric Medical Centre, providing improved facilities for research and the treatment of scuba divers, along with delivery of advanced medical training.

BRIC was officially opened by Professor Judith Petts, CBE, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Plymouth, and Ann James, Chief Executive of University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust (UHPNT).

How will BRIC research benefit people?

The facility is home to the most advanced front-line 3-Tesla MRI scanner in the South West, which is already being 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.

Dr Elsa Fouragnan, Head of BRIC’s Brain Stimulation Lab, has recently produced research that sheds early light on how ultrasound can alter decision-making behaviour, and Lead of the Motor Control Lab, Professor Jon Marsden, has also started a collaboration with global pharmaceutical company, Roche to test an app to help people with multiple sclerosis.

The work taking place in the other BRIC laboratories ranges from pain perception to computational modelling, allowing detailed investigation into a variety of neurological conditions. BRIC also provides new teaching space for postgraduate students in human neuroscience.

Professor Stephen Hall, Director of BRIC and a leading researcher in Human Neuroimaging, said: 

“COVID-19 posed a range of challenges to this project, so I am very grateful to the team for the exceptional effort they put in to getting the facility completed and operational. BRIC has immediately transformed brain research in the region and beyond, with international collaborations utilising the technology we have here to shed light on complex conditions to benefit patients.
“The addition of BRIC, with its cutting-edge facilities and leading expertise, will support the University’s ambition to become one of the most impactful brain research organisations in the world. We are proud to be working with DDRC Healthcare and UHPNT to make this work possible.” 

Professor Gary Smerdon, Chief Executive Officer of DDRC Healthcare, said:

“Having BRIC at the core of our expansion has opened our research and training to new international collaborators and customers. BRIC is a true collaboration that consolidates our many years of working with the University of Plymouth and the NHS. The excellence it brings to our research will move us to the forefront of understanding the effects of oxygen, nitrogen and pressure on the brain.”

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."

Brain Research & Imaging Centre

The Brain Research & Imaging Centre (BRIC), the most advanced multi-modal brain imaging facility in the South West, will provide the sea-change to enhance the quality of our research in human neuroscience.

With seven cutting-edge human research laboratories, BRIC will include an MRI suite with the most advanced 3-Tesla scanner in the region. It will critically advance our enquiry toward the most advanced brain research, improved radiological diagnostics and better patient care.

Find out more about the facility

<p>BRIC building development, December 2020</p>

Rhythms of the brain – Professor Stephen Hall

Inaugural Professorial Lecture | Wednesday 16 March | Watch now
The human brain generates enough electricity to power a small lightbulb and is more powerful than a supercomputer. How exactly does it work? And what are those electrical impulses doing? Professor of Human Neuroimaging, Stephen Hall, takes a closer look inside the brain using advanced imaging techniques to understand how its electrical rhythms control cognition and behaviour. He shares fascinating insights into his translational research and the journey to launching the region's most advanced multi-modal human neuroscience facility, the Brain Research & Imaging Centre (BRIC).

<p>Professor Stephen Hall</p>