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Graeme Mason, PhD

Professor of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging and of Psychiatry; Director Metabolic Modeling and Director Psychiatric MRS, Magnetic Resonance Research Center; Director, Neuroimaging Sciences Training Program, Radiology & Biomedical Imaging and Psychiatry; Chair, Magnetic Resonance Research Center Protocol Review Committee, Radiology & Biomedical Imaging

Research Summary

Dr. Mason's research program is focused on the development and evaluation of quantitative hypotheses of brain energy utilization, neurotransmitter metabolism, and function, as well as their application to neuropsychiatric disorders. Dr. Mason's primary methodologies are 1H, 2H, and 13C magnetic resonance spectroscopy and mathematical modeling of metabolism and enzyme kinetics, and the effects of alcohol and other substances on GABA, glutamate, and energy metabolism form a primary research focus for his program.

MRS uses technology that is similar to that of standard MRI, but the results are measurements of chemicals instead of images. The chemical measurements are used to measure the effects of variability in function, disease, and pharmacology on the concentrations of brain glutamate, glutamine, GABA and other compounds that are important for brain activity.

Among the most unique capacities of this laboratory is the ability to use MRS to measure metabolic rates with the stable isotope 13C by nuclear magnetic resonance and mass spectrometry. It is possible to observe the synthesis of glutamate, glutamine, GABA, and other compounds in the intact brain, with collaborative studies to examine other systems. Measurements of the synthesis of these compounds provide an assessment of neurotransmission and energetics in the brain. To plan experiments and evaluate data, mathematical simulations of brain metabolism are used with a user-friendly package called CWave, which allows a user to simulate the flow of isotopic labels through metabolism and follow their distribution in various isotopomeric patterns. As theories are developed, new experiments planned, and new data obtained, the models are constantly under revision and expansion.

The goals of the laboratory are to acquire the necessary data and create concrete mathematical expressions of the metabolic regulation of metabolism in the brain and other systems. Such expressions will help understand basic biochemical regulation, aid the development and evaluation of pharmacologic agents, and predict the effects of functional perturbations on the health and activity of the human brain.

Extensive Research Description

Dr. Mason's research integrates quantitative approaches to measure functional brain chemistry and the study of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and neuropsychiatric disorders. The primary methods used are 1H and 13C magnetic resonance spectroscopy, with some studies using mass spectrometry, as well as the mathematical assessment of metabolism. Current areas of research include alcohol effects, depression, alcoholism, and post-traumatic stress disorder. His primary areas of interest are the effects of alcohol on the brain, and to that end, his research evaluates acute and chronic effects of alcohol and its oxidation on the brain, from the perspectives of neurotransmission, metabolism, adaptation, and vulnerability to dependence.


Research Interests

Alcoholic Intoxication; Alcoholism; Amino Acids; Carbohydrates; Central Nervous System Diseases; Fatty Acids; Mathematical Computing; Substance Withdrawal Syndrome; Mood Disorders; Alcohol-Induced Disorders, Nervous System; Molecular Mechanisms of Pharmacological Action; Physiological Effects of Drugs; Neuroimaging

Public Health Interests

Mental Health; Metabolism; Modeling; Substance Use, Addiction

Selected Publications

Clinical Trials

ConditionsStudy Title
Diseases of the Nervous System; Mental Health & Behavioral ResearchExamination of Glutamate and mGluR5 in Psychiatric Disorders
Mental Health & Behavioral ResearchImaging mGluR5 and synaptic density in psychiatric disorders
Diabetes Mellitus - Type 1; Diseases of the Endocrine System; Diseases of the Nervous SystemImpact of Hypoglycemia on Brain Ketone and Neurotransmitter Metabolism in Type 1 DM
Diseases of the Nervous System; Mental Health & Behavioral ResearchBiomarkers of Clinical Subtype and Treatment Response in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder