What can bioimaging tell us about athletes, astronauts and ourselves?
If you think your weight divided by the square of your body height is a reliable indication of your overall health and fitness, think again.
“The bathroom scale and your BMI (body mass index) aren’t accurate enough because they don’t differentiate between somebody with muscle mass and someone with body fat,” says paediatrician Wei Shen, an associate director at the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center at Columbia University.
Shen is one of six speakers at the third annual PERFORM Centre Research Conference at Concordia on Thursday, May 19. This year’s theme is “Bioimaging for Prevention and Health Research,” and will include presentations on brain imaging, body composition, medical and musculoskeletal imaging.
“The timing is right for this topic because of significant developments at PERFORM this year,” says Karen Li, chair of the PERFORM Centre’s Scientific Events and Communications Committee and a professor in the Department of Psychology.
“Our imaging suite recently opened, and we recently welcomed Habib Benali, PERFORM’s new associate scientific director of biomedical engineering. It’s quite a coup for Concordia to have Professor Benali here given his international reputation.”
At the conference, Benali and PERFORM research member Jean-Paul Soucy will be showcasing current imaging projects led by PERFORM members.
The conference's international list of guest speakers includes: Pedro Antonio Valdes-Sosa from Cuba, Kirsi A. Virtanen from Finland, Alan Evans from Montreal, Julie Hides from Australia, Timothy J. Hall and Shen from the USA.
“Their lectures will cover a wide range of subjects because bioimaging has such a diverse application. We have someone talking about elite athletes and astronauts, someone talking about neuro-degeneration and another talking about image-based biomarkers,” says Li.
Bioimaging and obesity research
Bioimaging is a relevant public health topic, Li says, “because it helps with early diagnosis.”
Which brings us back to Shen’s research on obesity.
“Recent advances in MRI and MRS made it possible to quantify total body and regional fat, to map fat tissue distribution and to evaluate fat in places like the liver and pancreas,” she explains.
“The digitalization and centralization of these images allowed for clarifying obesity-related questions in various diseases. Imaging offers enormous opportunities in obesity care and prevention in diseases.”
New methodology workshop
On Friday, May 20, the day after the bioimaging conference, the PERFORM Centre will host its first Methodological Workshop in Imaging at Concordia’s Loyola Campus, with a theme of “Longitudinal Analysis with Neuroimaging Data.”
The workshop provides an opportunity to learn new methods special to longitudinal neuroimaging studies. There will be a series of five talks from experts who will introduce longitudinal studies involving different neuroimaging modalities (MRI, fMRI, PET, EEG), while focusing on specific methods to analyse that data.
To date, more than 200 people are registered to attend the annual conference and learn more about how bioimaging can serve preventive healthcare.
Will they be comparing their BMIs? Not likely.
The third annual PERFORM Centre Research Conference begins at 7:45 a.m. on Thursday, May 19. The Methodological Workshop in Imaging begins at 9 a.m. on Friday, May 20.
Online registration for both events is closed, but it is still possible to register on site.