Scroll to Section:

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a non invasive technology which can provide very detailed information on the human brain. In this video, NIKOLAUS WEISKOPF explores the insights that MRI can provide on the substantia nigra, a small midbrain structure that plays a crucial role in neurodegenerative conditions like Parkinson’s disease. Employing traditional postmortem histology alongside postmortem and in vivo MRI, Weiskopf’s work shows that MRI can reveal details about iron concentration in specific cells. This new biomarker could potentially be used to enable early detection and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s. With a Europe wide network having been established to analyze these findings with at risk patients, future research will focus on other brain areas outside the substantia nigra.


Nikolaus Weiskopf is Director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences. Holding Honarary Professorships at the University of Leipzig and University College London, Weiskopf is also an Adjunct Professor in the Center for Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering at the Medical University of Vienna. Weiskopf’s research centers on neuroscience, specifically on using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the human brain and for in vivo histology. The author of almost 200 peer-reviewed publications, Weiskopf is an associate editor for Frontiers in Brain Imaging Methods.


Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences

The studies look into the perception, planning, and generation of human cognitive abilities and cerebral processes, and analyse the interaction and common functional bases of their production and perception. Other research focuses on plastic changes in the human brain and the influence this has on various cognitive abilities, and also the neuronal and hormonal basis of modern diseases such as high blood pressure and obesity. In addition, the further development of imaging methods for the neurosciences is a focal point of research at the Institute.

The MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences provides an exciting framework for these topical and alluring theoretical domains, with the full gamut of cognitive and neuroscientific methodology available under one roof.

Show more

Original publication

Swallow tail sign: Revisited.

Brammerloh M., Kirilina E., Alkmade A., Bazin P.-L., Jantzen C., Jäger C., Herrler A., Gowland P., Morawski M, Forstmann B. and Weiskopf N.
Published in 2022

Measuring the iron content of dopaminergic neurons in substantia nigra with MRI relaxometry

Brammerloh M., Morawski M., Friedrich I., Reinert T., Lange C., Pelicon P., Vavpetič P., Jankuhn S., Jäger C., Alkemade A. and Weiskopf N.
Published in 2021

Reading recommendations

A unified 3D map of microscopic architecture and MRI of the human brain.

Alkemade A., Bazin P.-L., Balesar R., Pine K., Kirilina E., Möller H. E., Trampel R., Kros J. M., Keuken M. C., Bleys R. L. A. W and Weiskopf N.
Science Advances
Published in 2022

Superficial white matter imaging: Contrast mechanisms and whole-brain in vivo mapping.

Kirilina E., Helbling S., Morawski M., Pine K., Jankuhn S., Dinse J., Deistung A., Reichenbach J. R., Trampel R. and Weiskopf N.
Science Advances
Published in 2020

Quantitative magnetic resonance imaging of brain anatomy and in vivo histology.

Weiskopf N., Edwards L., Helms G., Mohammadi S. and Kirilina E.
Nature Reviews Physics
Published in 2021