Norman Cheng, PhD
Associate Professor
Mailing Address: WSU MRI Core,
4201 St. Antoine UHC - 5E
Detroit, MI 48201
Phone: (313) 966-8220
Fax: (313) 745-9182

Quantitative measurements from MRI have proven to be important diagnostic markers in Radiology. Dr. Cheng, has recently focused on fundamental MRI research that will ultimately assist medical doctors in distinguishing normal from abnormal tissue. His focus has been on studying magnetic susceptibility effects caused by microbleeds in a variety of diseases including trauma and aging in an effort to understand progressive vascular damage in each of these diseases. Quantifying the magnet source has been an interest in the MRI community for a long time, but it is a very difficult inverse problem. Dr. Cheng recently solved this complex problem and refers to this approach as CISSCO.

Microbleeds can occur in normal aging but are much more prevalent in vascular dementia. Recent evidence suggests that a significant fraction of dementia patients suffer from cerebral amyloid angiopathy which is different from Alzheimer’s disease. It is very important to stratify patients (i.e., determine which type of dementia they have) and one way may be to monitor microbleeds. Dr. Cheng’s interests lie in not only detecting these microbleeds but quantifying their susceptibility to show if the disease is worsening or not. Microbleeds have been observed in roughly 27% of subjects with Alzheimer’s disease, 25%-46% with hypertension, 34% with ischemic stroke, 60% with non-traumatic intracerebral hemorrhage, and 85% with vascular dementia. These numbers and existing research let one suspect the progression of microbleeds could be an early biomarker of vascular dementia. One problem that human brain MR images present is difficulty in distinguishing microbleeds from calcification, which also appear as small dark spots. Dr. Cheng has applied the CISSCO method to these findings and found that he could distinguish calcium from actual bleeding. This is significant since microbleeds can occur in several neurological diseases. Potentially, this method can reveal information that is currently only available from x-ray or computed tomography (CT) scans.

Dr. Cheng has also been heavily involved in a second application on the detection of changes in iron content in the brain. This too may have applications to diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease. As for future research, Dr. Cheng’s ultimate goal is to create a susceptibility map of the tissue over the entire body.