The head of a pioneering Irish neuroscience research project has called for a stronger support for science, citing the growing number of high-profile cases of brain injuries and deaths linked to the controversial brain-imaging technology.
Professor Michael Fenton, a leading researcher at the University of Limerick, made the comments as he urged more funding for the countrys top neuroscience research institution, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
His comments come after a study showed the use of brain imaging technology has been linked to more than 400 deaths in Ireland, the highest number of brain-related deaths in Europe.
Professor Fenton said he was concerned that the number of deaths associated with the use and misuse of the technology in Ireland had risen to over 100,000.
He said there was a real risk that the rise in the number, the rapidity and the severity of the cases could have been prevented if more research funding had been given to NIINDS.
The research is funded by the European Union and the US National Institutes of Health.
Professor John McCarthy, head of the NIINds Research Institute for Medical Imaging and Cognitive Sciences, said he wanted to be seen as a leading global player in the field.
He welcomed the increased funding from the European Commission, saying it was important to ensure that research funding was targeted to the right places and to deliver high quality research.NIINDS is the worlds leading provider of medical imaging and cognitive neuroscience services, which have seen the development of cutting-edge technologies that help people live healthier, more productive and longer lives.
The number of cases of stroke and brain injuries linked to NINDS research has been estimated to be in excess of one million.
The latest figures showed there were more than 2,200 reported brain-damaged deaths in the country in 2016.
This figure is expected to rise by almost threefold in 2021.
Prof McCarthy said the number was growing and that this was concerning, as research in the area had the potential to have a significant impact on the world’s healthcare system.
He warned that the data on deaths associated the use or misuse of NINSD technology had been released but that it was not being properly analysed.
The NINDF has already been criticised for not doing enough to tackle the increasing number of casualties in the research industry, he said.
He added that he had been contacted by patients in Ireland who had lost loved ones to stroke and other brain-health related causes.
The head of NIINDs, Dr Richard Fitzgerald, said it was very difficult to quantify how many people are dying, as there was no national data.
He also acknowledged that there were no easy answers, but said it would take years to assess and report on all of the information available.
In its submission to the Irish Government’s National Health Infrastructure Review (NHIOR), the NIND said there were over 5,000 research studies funded by NIINSD.
It said the data was not always comprehensive, and that many of the data were incomplete or had not been verified.
The report also said there had been a decline in the use in recent years of NIDIs brain imaging, particularly during the second half of 2017, and it urged the Government to increase funding for NINIS research.
“Research in NIINIS has been particularly critical in helping to advance the understanding of the neurodegenerative process and the link between brain injury and neurodegeners,” it said.
Dr Fitzgerald also said the Government had recognised that there was an urgent need to increase research funding for NIIND.
“We must continue to work closely with NIINDE, the NIID and other partners to ensure we can deliver high-quality research, which is of vital importance to the future health and well-being of our citizens and the broader society,” he said in the submission.
The Government’s submission said it had also committed to making the number and type of research grants available to NIIDD to be more transparent and accessible.
Professor Fitzgerald also noted that the Irish National Institute for Health Research (INHIR) had announced an ambitious target of increasing the number or types of research projects funded by NINDs to 2,000 a year by 2021.