Pioneer of Diffusion MRI for Acute Stroke Diagnosis Dr. Denis Le Bihan, Founding Director of France's NeuroSpin for Ultrahigh Field MRI, Receives Honda Prize 2012

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The Honda Foundation, a public-interest incorporated foundation created by Honda Motor's founder Soichiro Honda and his younger brother Benjiro Honda and currently headed by Hiroto Ishida, is pleased to announce the Honda Prize 2012 will be awarded to Dr. Denis Le Bihan for his leading role in establishing the Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging (Diffusion MRI) modality as a universal method to study and diagnose acute stroke and other neurological disorders. The Founding Director of France's NeuroSpin for Ultrahigh Field MRI, Dr. Le Bihan also teaches at Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine's Human Brain Research Center. Dr. Le Bihan is the 33rd laureate of the Honda Prize*1.

Dr. Denis Le Bihan is a pioneer of the Diffusion MRI concept from theorization of water diffusion measurement by MRI to its application in clinical practice, and his innovative imaging techniques have rapidly spread throughout the world. Combined with the advance of intravenous thrombolytic therapy, Diffusion MRI has spared many patients suffering acute stroke by drastically shortening the time required for diagnosis within just minutes to a few hours after the stroke onset, when brain tissue is still salvageable. Crisp Diffusion MRI images also facilitate the diagnosis of other neurological diseases and the determination of the extent of tumor dissection before performing surgery, leading to a drastic decline in the risk of damaging white matter fibers associated with bodily function during surgical procedures.

Indeed, Diffusion MRI has also become a powerful tool to map the wiring of the brain, which has been on the front line of modern neuroscience research, especially in such related field as cognitive neuroscience, neuropsychology, and neuroeconomics. The Diffusion MRI technology is opening up new lines of inquiry to investigate faulty brain connections associated to brain illnesses, such as aging and neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer, Parkinson's disease), mental health disorders (autism, schizophrenia), addiction and other neurological diseases, because by analyzing Diffusion MRI images one can determine exactly which and how nerve fibers are lost or damaged in the brain due to these disorders.   

Another promising application of Diffusion MRI includes early detection of tumors and metastases as diffusion of water in cancer lesions (liver, prostate, breast) is deeply affected.

The principles and measurement techniques underlying Diffusion MRI are rooted in the classic formula proposed for Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) by E. O. Stejskal and J. E. Tanner in 1965. Dr. Le Bihan studied NMR imaging intensively and suggested that diffusional movements of water and other molecules inside the body could be used to visualize microscopic structure and function of the organs and tissues being observed with MRI. Dr. Le Bihan devised the Diffusion MRI method for clinical practice by noninvasively visualizing behavior of water diffusion inside the brain when water molecules move in a strong magnetic field gradient.

Dr. Le Bihan's Diffusion MRI method has spread across the world for the immediate treatment of acute stroke and other neurological disorders and has saved large number of  lives. The Honda Foundation believes his services to society are appropriate for the Honda Prize as an embodiment of the ideals of ecotechnology*2.

The 33rd award ceremony for the Honda Prize will be held at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo on November 19th, 2012. In addition to the prize medal and certificate, sub-prize money of 10 million yen will be awarded to the laureate.

*1 Honda Prize: Japan's first international science and technology award inaugurated in 1980. It is recognized as one of the most important awards of the world by the U.S. International Congress of Distinguished Awards.

*2 Ecotechnology: Coined from 'ecology' - the house of civilization - and 'technology.' It has been put forward since 1979 as the guiding philosophy for a better symbiosis between technology-driven civilization and nature.

 

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