Fatima Nasrallah is a neuroscientist with a background in magnetic resonance and interdisciplinary brain research. She graduated from the University of New South Wales in 2009 where she received a PhD in neurochemistry and metabolic resonance under the supervision of Prof. Caroline Rae. As a research fellow, she joined Dr. Kai-Hsiang Chuang’s group at the Singapore Bioimaging Consortium where she was the first to establish, using multimodal approaches, working models of functional MRI connectivity and electrophysiology in the rodent. In 2013, she was appointed as senior fellow at the Clinical Imaging Research Center in Singapore where she made her first foray into clinical brain research leading several clinical research studies on brain cancer, dementia, autism, stroke, and brain injury. She was appointed as a senior fellow at the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) in October 2015.
The brain is an extraordinarily complex network of neural wires arising from interactions of billions of neurons to trillions of fibers that meander through vast brain regions. Multimodality imaging specifically MRI and PET, has matured into an extremely powerful tool which has brought a new perspective into our understanding of brain function with the potential to exploit high resolution structural, functional and metabolic information. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), in particular, has been key in mapping brain functionality and elucidating the neural pathways that underlie brain function and behavior. Dr. Nasrallah’s research interest lies in the understanding of brain function by incorporating functional, metabolic, and molecular metrics from multimodality imaging.
The themes being explored include:
1-Understanding the neural correlates of resting state connectivity and its application in disease: Despite its contribution to unraveling the complex functional wiring of the brain, the neural inference and biochemical/neurobiological mechanisms of these spatiotemporal patterns of oscillations remain largely unknown. For the past few years Dr. Nasrallah has been tackling this aspect by pharmacologically challenging neurotransmitter receptor systems to create a receptor-specific fingerprint of resting state networks in an attempt to understand the neural underpinnings of this phenomenon. Pharmacological, electrophysiological recordings, and genetic/molecular aspects will used to probe the neural origins of these important intrinsic oscillations which will be applied in the deciphering of functional brain networks in models of disease with a main emphasis on the excitatory and inhibitory circuitry of the brain.
2- Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and the connection with Neurodegeneration:
TBI is one of the leading causes of morbidity worldwide. TBI is not a single disease entity but includes a very heterogeneous and complex spectrum of pathologies. Interest in understanding the pathology of TBI has increased after the discovery that TBI can provoke neurodegneration and is a risk-factor for late-life dementia, especially Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Nasrallah is particularly interested in understanding how head injury can provoke neurodegeneration by identifying distinct patterns of proteins and connectivity in the brain following brain injury. State of the art neuroimaging approaches for characterizing brain injury longitudinally at the structural, functional and connectomic levels will be developed for the unveiling of brain circuitry in models of injury and disease.
3- Translational imaging: from the bench-side to clinical applications
Although there have been major advances in the understanding of how the brain works at the cellular level, there has been a tremendous lag in translating this knowledge to understanding human behavior and brain diseases. The aim is to bridge the gap between preclinical and clinical research using complementary brain imaging tools for measuring identical image based biomarkers from mouse to human and from the bench to the clinical settings in brain conditions including brain injury such as TBI, stroke, chemobrain, neurooncology, and neurodegenerative diseases. Methods including functional connectivity for mapping of the functional connectome (rsfMRI), diffusion tensor imaging for structural mapping (DTI), perfusion imaging (ASL), magnetization transfer imaging (MTR), susceptibility weighted imaging (SWI), and spectroscopy (MRS) in conjunction with protein biomarkers as metrics that will be applied in preclinical and clinical settings to improve our understanding of how the human brain is affected by a range of conditions and diseases.
- Professor Jürgen Götz
Nasrallah, F.A, Yeow LY, Biswal B, Chuang KH. Dependence of BOLD signal fluctuation on arterial blood CO2 and O2: Implication for resting state functional connectivity. (Neuroimage 2015, 20(117):29-39).
Rae, Caroline, Nasrallah, F.A, Balcar, V.J, Benjamin D. Rowlands, Graham A.R. Johnston & Jane R. Hanrahan. Metabolomic approaches to defining the role(s) of GABAρ receptors in the brain. (J Neuroimmune Pharmacol 2015, Jan 11. [Epub ahead of print]).
Nasrallah, F.A., Low, SM., Lew, SK., Chen, K., Kai-Hsiang Chuang. Pharmacological insight into neurotransmission origins of resting state functional connectivity: a2-adrenergic agonist vs antagonist. (Neuroimage 2014 doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2014.09.004.).
Rae, C.D., Davidson, J.E., Maher, A.D., Rowlands, B.D., Kashem, M.A., Nasrallah, F.A., Rallapalli, S.K., Cook, J.M., Balcar, V.J. Ethanol, not detectably metabolized in the brain, significantly reduces brain metabolism, probably via action at specific GABAA receptors and has measureable metabolic effects at very low concentrations. (J Neurochem 2013, 129(2):304-14).
Nasrallah, F.A., Hui-Chien Tay, Krzysztof Pyka, and Kai-Hsiang Chuang. Functional networks in the mouse brain detected under different dosages of medetomidine (Neuroimage 2014 1(86):417-24)
Nasrallah, F.A., Si Kang Lew, Amanda Low, and Kai-Hsiang Chuang. Neural correlate of resting-state functional connectivity under a2 adrenergic receptor agonist, medetomidine ( Neuroimage 2013 1(84):27-34)
Nasrallah, F.A, Guilhem Pages, Kuchel, P.W., Xavier Golay, and Kai-Hsiang Chuang. Imaging brain deoxyglucose uptake by gluco-CEST MRI (Journal of Cerebral Blood flow and Metabolism 2013 33(8):1270-8).
Rae, C, Aurélie Fekete, Mohammed A. Kashem, Nasrallah, F.A., Stefan Bröer (2012) “Metabolism, compartmentation, transport, and production of acetate in the cortical brain tissue slice”. (Neurochemical Research 2012, 37(11):2541-53).
Nasrallah, F.A, Eugene Lee Li Qun, and Kai-Hsiang Chuang. (2012) Optimization of flow-sensitive alternating inversion recovery (FAIR) for perfusion fMRI of rodent brain. (NMR in Biomedicine 2012, 25(11):1209-16)
Nasrallah, F.A, Jolena Tan, and Kai-Hsiang Chuang. (2012) Pharmacological modulation of functional connectivity: α2 adrenergic receptor agonist alters synchrony but not activation. Neuroimage 60(1):436.
Nasrallah, F.A., Balcar, V.J., Rae, C. (2011) Activity-dependent γ-aminobutyric acid release controls brain cortical tissue slice metabolism. Journal of Neuroscience Research 89(12):1935.
Nasrallah, F.A., Maher AD, Hanrahan JR, Balcar, V.J. Rae, C. (2010). γ-Hydroxybutyrate and the GABAergic footprint: a metabolic approach to unpicking the actions of GHB. Journal of Neurochemistry 115(1):58
Nasrallah, F.A., Balcar, V.J., Rae, C. (2009) A metabonomic study of inhibition of GABA uptake in the cerebral cortex. Metabolomics 6, 67-77
Rae, C, Nasrallah, F.A., Griffin, J.L., Balcar, V.J. (2009) Now I know my ABC. A systems neurochemistry and functional metabolomic approach to understanding the GABAergic system. Journal of Neurochemistry 109 Suppl 1, 109-16
Rae, C, Nasrallah, F.A., Bröer, S. (2009) Metabolic effects of blocking lactate transport in brain cortical tissue slices using an inhibitor specific to MCT1 and MCT2. Neurochemical Research 34, 1783-91.
Nasrallah, F.A., Griffin, JL, Balcar, V.J. & Rae, C. (2009) Understanding your inhibitions. Understanding your inhibitions. Effects of GABA and GABAA receptor modulation on brain cortical metabolism. Journal of Neurochemistry 108, 57-71
Nasrallah, F.A., Garner, B, Ball, G.E. & Rae C. (2008) Modulation of brain metabolism by very low concentrations of the commonly used drug delivery vehicle dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO). Journal of Neuroscience Research 86, 208-214.
Rae, C, Nasrallah, F.A., Maher AD, Davidson J, Balcar, V.J. Metabolic effects of modulating NMDA receptor sites; effects of creatine. Submitted to Journal of Neurochemistry
Nasrallah, F.A.,Griffin, J.L., Balcar, V.J. & Rae C. (2007) Understanding your inhibitions. Modulation of brain cortical metabolism by GABA-B receptors. Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism 27, 1510-1520.
Bröer, S., Bröer, A., Hansen, J.T., Bubb, W.A., Balcar,V.J., Nasrallah, F.A.,Garner, B. & Rae C. (2007) Alanine metabolism, transport and cycling in the brain. Journal of Neurochemistry 102, 1758-1770.