Oded Gonen - Interview

Lyme Disease Picture of Oded Gonen"I am originally a physical chemist by training," he says. "That training was in magnetic resonance and my expertise is in the area of magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS). Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which most people are familiar with, makes pictures of your body's water content, and since the body is mostly water, those images look like the inside of your body. MRS, on the other hand, measures the metabolites, not the water, in your body. These are at much lower concentrations, so the pictures you get are fuzzier, but they disclose information that clinical measures do not show."

"In quite a few disorders, patients experience problems that regular MRI simply does not show," Dr. Gonen explains. "There are classes of disorders of the central nervous system, of the brain, that reveal no pathological findings on an MRI; yet there is clearly something clinically wrong with the patient. This presents a dilemma for the neurologist, namely what is wrong with this person and how do we treat it?

"This is where my path and the path of Dr. Younger cross. Many of his patients have no pathological findings, or if they do, they tend to be very general and non-distinct. So I obtain spectroscopic quantification of their brains to see if their neurometabolism is indistinguishable from that of a "healthy" person. The spectroscopy enables me to search for things that would not appear in a regular clinical MRI."

Dr. Gonen believes that this research is potentially very beneficial to the Lyme community. "Some doctors assume that a person who presents radiologically has a clean bill of health but still presents certain symptoms of either a malingerer or someone with an underlying psychiatric disorder. The third possibility - that some other kind of organic underlying malady might not have been captured by standard radiological tools- is too often discounted."

Dr. Gonen's study will examine 20 patients at New York University Langone Medical Center who have been referred to the study by Dr. Younger. They may be either acute or chronic Lyme disease patients, and will undergo a series of magnetic resonance tests over a period of several months. Each test will last approximately one hour, and will involve a closed MRI machine.

Any patients of Dr. Younger's interested in participating in the study can get full eligibility information from his office.

"The benefit of this study will be an enhance body of knowledge and a better understanding of what Lyme disease does to the people infected with it," says Dr. Gonen. "We hope that, armed with this knowledge, we will be better able to diagnose and to treat the disease. It will help us to understand what neuroborreliosis does to the brain that we can actually capture with quantitative measures."

"There has been very little research done on the organic underlying functions of this disease," he adds. "A very large number of people may or may not have this disease, which is a strong motivating factor to conduct this study, as well as to participate."