Dr. Anna Rieckmann at Umeå University in Sweden has been awarded an ERC Starting Grant by the European Research Council. The awarded EUR 1.5 million will allow her to spend five years researching the neural basis of cognitive functions.
The European Research Council (ERC) supports top quality research through competitive funding. The aim is to support investigator-driven frontier research across all fields, on the basis of scientific excellence. For early career researchers, funding is offered through Starting Grants, which is awarded to young talented researchers with a promising track-record, with the aim to encourage them to become independent research leaders.
"Being awarded such a prestigious grant of course means a lot for me as it gives me the opportunity to conduct an extremely exciting and ambitious research project, to start my own lab and to become an independent researcher," says Anna Rieckmann.
For the ERC Starting Grant, Anna Rieckmann has designed the project SIMULTAN, which investigates the neural basis of human cognitive functioning with a new imaging technique that combines functional MRI (fMRI) with simultaneous molecular imaging (PET). FMRI is a widely used tool in the cognitive neurosciences but is only an indirect, and not fully understood, signal of brain activity.
"Using these simultaneous measurements will help us understand what biological processes occur in certain situations when we observe an fMRI signal. This is important for the field as a whole as it may influence how existing and future fMRI studies are interpreted," explains Anna Rieckmann.
For her work, Anna Rieckmann will utilise the GE Signa PET-MR scanner that was installed at the University Hospital of Umeå in 2014, and which is one of only two such machines available in Sweden.
Anna Rieckmann will specifically focus on the ageing brain, where she hopes the new technique will eventually help distinguish a normally ageing brain from one that is in the pre-clinical stages of disease, and aid in the development of interventions to halt cognitive decline in ageing.
"It feels incredibly pleasing to congratulate Anna Rieckmann for this superior acknowledgement of her research. Competition for ERC starting grants is tough and this shows what top quality research Anna Rieckmann has achieved. Congratulations from me and the entire University Management," says Hans Adolfsson, Vice-Chancellor of Umeå University.
Anna Rieckmann comes from Lüneburg in Germany and has worked at the Department of Radiation Sciences and the Umeå Center for Functional Brain Imaging at Umeå University since April 2015. Previously, Anna Rieckmann completed a 3-year post-doc at Harvard University in Boston.