ASNR Member Spotlight: Dr. Erik Middlebrooks

Dr. Erik Middlebrooks is a Professor and Associate Chair in the Department of Radiology at the Mayo Clinic Florida. He completed both his residency and fellowship at the University of Florida.

Dr. Middlebrooks was nominated by a fellow ASNR member for feature in the Member Spotlight because of his pioneer work in the adaptation of 7T MRI to clinical practice, as well as his innovation in neuromodulation using brain connectomics.

How did you become interested in neuroradiology?

My journey to neuroradiology began far before my entrance into medicine. I had always been fascinated by the brain and grew up with a desire to enter the medical field. However, I found myself drawn to quantum mechanics as an undergraduate. In the end, I decided to stay the course and pursue medicine with a primary interest in neurosurgery. By the end of medical school, and several rotations through neurosurgery, I found that I was far more drawn to the imaging and diagnostic side. Additionally, with my background passion for quantum mechanics, radiology presented a perfect blend of medicine and physics! In the end, this paved the way for my journey to neuroradiology, in particular as an MRI researcher. I am thankful that I found my path and home in neuroradiology, which is the best field in medicine!

Why did you join ASNR?

One of the greatest parts of our profession is the people. We are fortunate to have a large community of brilliant clinicians, diagnosticians, scientists, and educators. ASNR is OUR society-the place where all of these people with diverse interests and background come together, many of whom I am fortunate to call friends. Through the many ASNR events, committees, and subsocieties, I have made innumerable friendships and been inspired in many ways throughout all stages of my career. I have also found incredible mentorship with a nearly endless number of people who willingly give their time and wisdom to help others on their path. Not to mention, you get access to AJNR (shameless plug!), which I think is the premiere journal in clinical neuroradiology.

Can you share more on your work with 7T MRI and what it means for neuroradiology?

7T MRI is a tool with the potential to revolutionize neuroimaging. However, its clinical translation has been limited so far due to the challenges of imaging at ultra-high fields. My work has focused on overcoming these challenges in order to use this technology for improving patient diagnoses and outcomes.

We have demonstrated significant advantages of 7T over traditional methods in various neurological conditions. For instance, we developed a novel approach to enhance MS lesion detection at 7T and showed the superiority of 7T over 3T in detecting the central vein sign. Additionally, we developed a method to improve the detection of subtle focal cortical dysplasias and other lesions in epilepsy using our EDGE-MP2RAGE sequence. Recently, we also demonstrated the high diagnostic performance and added value of 7T neuromelanin-weighted imaging in diagnosing Parkinson’s disease. Moreover, we have created new approaches to achieve ultra-high resolution and high-contrast imaging for deep brain stimulation planning and have shown significantly improved patient outcomes using 7T for targeting compared to 3T MRI. We are continuously exploring new methods to further enhance 7T imaging with the aim of revolutionizing patient diagnoses and treatment and are extremely excited about the upcoming developments in this field.

Anything else you would like to share?

When not doing radiology, I enjoy spending time with my wife and three kids (6-12 years old). We enjoy traveling and the outdoors, experiencing new adventures and foods, and taking care of our small zoo–a dog, bearded dragon, hamster, and kitten!