Image of Carolyn, smiling
Prof Carolyn Mountford
Queensland University of Technology

Professor Carolyn  Mountford is an Oxford Educated Biophysicist. She recently stepped down as CEO and Director of Research for Australia’s Translational Research Institute. Carolyn was awarded full Professor of Radiology at Harvard Medical School in 2011 and retains a position as NeuroScientist at the Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at MGH and Harvard Medical School. She is currently Professor of Radiology at QUT and CEO of a start up DatChem. Professor Mountford and her team have been a worldwide development site for Siemens since 1999. She is a co-inventor of the diagnostic protocol to monitor women at high risk for breast cancer identifying metabolic deregulations in their breast tissue that precede tumour growth. The same technology is shown to identify changes to the brain associated with learning, memory, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and injury from blast and impact. Her team is under contract to the USA and Australian military to develop this approach to improve the health of soldiers.


The current ‘gold-standard’ for pain assessment are self-report medical questionnaires1. Similarly, the method for diagnosing PTSD is questionnaires and interviews. There is currently no literature reporting on a safe level of low-level military occupational blast (MOB), leading to an increasing interest in neurological damage following repetitive low-level MOB. The effect of repetitive head injury (RHI) has been contentious for years. What is agreed upon is that these people do not feel normal and the recognition of the urgent need for objective markers for these conditions. Conventional structural imaging has failed to demonstrate any abnormalities.

Modern 3T clinical magnetic resonance (MR) scanners, equipped with a 64-channel head and neck coil, allow for a detailed evaluation of the chemistry of the human brain. The neurochemistry of patients suffering from chronic pain, PTSD, RHI and frontline defenders exposed to blast have been recorded and compared using 1D MRS and 2D COrrelated SpectroscopY (COSY). The COSY method allows the assignment of over 45 chemical species including the newly assigned Fuc-α (1,2) glycans2, shown in animal models to be implicated in the mechanisms underlying neuronal development, learning, memory; to influence various neuronal processes (3,4).

We have now documented a clear distinction between these conditions (5) and robust classifiers (6) are underdevelopment to automatically evaluate new cases. The chemical species recorded for each condition identify biochemical pathways that are breaking down or broken. Importantly a detailed neurochemical response of the human brain following successful treatment for pain and for PTSD has now been recorded and the kinetics of a recovering brain a reality.

1. Cowen R, Stasiowska MK, Laycock H, Bantel C. Assessing pain objectively: the use of physiological markers. 2015;70(7):828-847.

2. Tosh N, Quadrelli S, Galloway G, Mountford C. Two New Fucose-α (1–2)-Glycans Assigned In The Healthy Human Brain Taking The Number To Seven. Nature Scientific Reports. 2019;9(1):18806.

3. Murrey HE, Ficarro SB, Krishnamurthy C, Domino SE, Peters EC, Hsieh-Wilson LC. Identification of the plasticity-relevant fucose-alpha(1-2)-galactose proteome from the mouse olfactory bulb. Biochemistry. 2009;48(30):7261.

4. Ralf K, Melitta S. Glycans and neural cell interactions. Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 2004;5(3):195.

5. Quadrelli S, Tosh N, Urquhart A, et al. Post-traumatic stress disorder affects fucose-alpha(1-2)-glycans in the human brain: preliminary findings of neuro deregulation using in vivo two-dimensional neuro MR spectroscopy. Nature Transl Psychiatry. 2019;9(1):27.

6. Stanwell P, Siddall P, Keshava N, et al. Neuro magnetic resonance spectroscopy using wavelet decomposition and statistical testing identifies biochemical changes in people with spinal cord injury and pain. NeuroImage. 2010;53(2):544-552.

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