Home Research A better look
MRI allows you to see brain structure and function and its pathology well before symptoms occur, says Dr. Frederik Barkhof.

A better look

Frederik Barkhof, MD, has advanced the use of MRI to understand MS.

by Mary E. King, PhD
Frederik Barkhof, MD

Frederik Barkhof, MD. Photo courtesy of Frederik Barkhof

Frederik Barkhof, MD, has received the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the American Academy of Neurology’s 2018 John Dystel Prize for Multiple Sclerosis Research for his many years of outstanding research in the field of MS, especially in advancing the understanding and clinical use of brain imaging. Dr. Barkhof is a professor of neuroradiology in the Department of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, VU University Medical Center (Amsterdam, The Netherlands) and at the Institutes of Neurology and Healthcare Engineering, University College London (London, UK).

MRI provides the big picture
Dr. Barkhof explains his interest in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and MS this way: “I want to better visualize and understand disease onset and mechanisms of progression to facilitate diagnosis and drug development. MRI is complementary to neuropathology; it has less resolution [of fine details] but a better overview with longitudinal observations. We sometimes refer to it as the ‘macroscope’ in contrast to a microscope’s view of the brain.”

Dr. Barkhof describes what he sees as the most important clinical outcome of his research so far. “My MRI criteria are used internationally [for] earlier diagnosis and treatment of patients suspected of MS.” This research has also allowed doctors to monitor the progression of specific changes in the brain during the course of MS. Researchers now apply these criteria to look more closely inside the brain at the effects of MS drugs under development, he continues.

Passionate about MS research, Dr. Barkhof says: “I have always been very visually oriented, and radiology allows you to see what causes disease. MRI allows you to see brain structure and function and its pathology well before symptoms occur. I also find the translation of MRI changes to genetics, pathology and future disability fascinating.”

Dr. Barkhof has made many contributions to MS research and clinical care, notes Bruce Bebo, PhD, executive vice president, research, for the Society. “He is the author of more than 900 papers as well as a number of books and has been named by Thompson-Reuters as one of the most influential scientists in the world.” Bebo also pointed out that Dr. Barkhof is a strong advocate for multidisciplinary collaborations and data sharing, as evidenced by his founding role in the European consortium known as MRI in Multiple Sclerosis (MAGNIMS).

Mary E. King, PhD, is a freelance medical writer in Boulder, Colorado