Wednesday, June 13, 2012

tackling Down syndrome research

from Simon Fraser University by Adam Ovenell-Carter:
“I’m not certain I have much of a tale to tell,” demurs Teresa Cheung, manager of the magnetoencephalography (MEG) lab at Burnaby’s Down Syndrome Research Foundation (DSRF), of which SFU is a longtime key supporter.
Though she might not like to admit it, her story has led to impressive changes in the world of neuroscience and helped reveal the cognitive aspects of Down syndrome.
Cheung, who receives an SFU PhD in physics this month, joined the DSRF when it first developed its MEG lab a few years ago and was part of the team that created the first MEG device.
Magnetoencephalography is an intimidating word, but the concept is simple:
“Even when we do nothing our brain keeps working, creating tiny magnetic fields,” says Cheung. The MEG measures these magnetic fields—and brain activity.
“Once the locations of brain activity are determined, we can look at the relationship between different locations and the timing of this activity,” she adds, and it’s this relationship that sheds light on the development of those with Down syndrome.
Cheung came back to school to further understand how the MEG could be used.
She wrapped up her PhD with a thesis on hardware models that can simulate complex brain activity—or what the MEG can measure.
By understanding how differently developed brains function her research will help continue to progress.
“For me, it’s just doing my job,” says Cheung, who’s currently doing post-doctoral studies at the University of Cambridge.
“I love my work, and I love knowing I can help people, whether it’s helping patients or helping researchers.
“But I think there are more deserving stories than mine.”
One look at the Down Syndrome Research Foundation website reveals how the program has been lauded for its research.
Cheung may be modest, but her contributions are not.

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