The vibrant, diverse brain health community at Illinois is working to find solutions to some of today’s most pressing societal health challenges in fields including aging; learning, memory and plasticity; nutrition and cognition; neuroengineering; neuro-and socio-genomics; bioinformatics; and more. More than 300 faculty and staff on the Urbana-Champaign campus identify as researchers in the brain health space—regardless of their home department affiliation. These researchers are using leading-edge imaging tools, pioneering studies that progress from the lab to clinical applications with the goal of improving the health and lives of people everywhere.
Kari Foss, DVM, MS, DACVIM
Assistant Professor, Department of Veterinary Clinical Medicine
Kari Foss, DVM, MS, DACVIM, is an assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Medicine. After earning her DVM from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, she completed both a residency in Veterinary Neurology and Neurosurgery and a Master’s program in Veterinary Clinical Sciences at The Ohio State University. Dr. Foss’s current research interests focus on ways to improve patient care through advancing diagnostic techniques utilizing neuroimaging.
What is your research in brain health about?
As a veterinary neurologist, the vast majority of my research focuses on how to improve patient care through advancing our diagnostic capabilities and providing more targeted therapies. Specifically, I am investigating the use of very novel neuroimaging techniques and their application in the assessment of a variety of canine intracranial diseases.
How are you conducting your research?
Currently, I am conducting a pilot trial investigating the use of whole-brain magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) and magnetic resonance elastography (MRE) in the evaluation of canine epilepsy. By implementing these novel neuroimaging techniques into the diagnosis of canine epilepsy, we may learn very crucial information that could allow us to provide more targeted therapies, much like in human medicine, as well as providing potentially more information about the disease process itself at a cellular level, something we are unable to do with conventional MRI techniques.
Additionally, I am collaborating with several faculty in my department along with Drs. Kelly Swanson and Maria Cattai de Godoy in Animal Sciences, investigating the role of the microbiome in canine patients suffering from spinal cord injury and how targeting this may play a role in patient recovery.
How does being part of the Illinois community support and enhance your research?
Being a part of the Illinois community has supported my collaborative efforts and has allowed me to make connections with faculty on campus from different colleges and departments, such as Animal Sciences and the Beckman Institute. My collaborative efforts with faculty within the Beckman Institute, including Dr. Brad Sutton, Dr. Fan Lam, and Dr. Aaron Anderson, have been instrumental in my ongoing neuroimaging research program within the College of Veterinary Medicine.
How will your research or work improve society or reach people?
From a pet owner’s perspective, having the most information about what is ailing their family member is of utmost importance. It allows them to make educated decisions in regard to their pet’s care and provides them a better understanding of the disease processes and the expected prognosis.
What led to your interest in this area of study?
My interest in neuroimaging stems from frustrations encountered on the clinical floor. While routine MRI may provide veterinary neurologists a great deal of information about the structural pathology of the CNS, there are still gaps in our knowledge base. In particular, some disease processes may have a similar appearance on MRI making it difficult to provide a client with an accurate diagnosis. The information we may be able to gain from applying more advanced MR techniques could not only aid in our ability to provide a diagnosis but could also give us information in regard to prognosis and more targeted treatment options.
In regard to spinal cord injury, this is also an area of great interest in both human and veterinary medical research and how we can improve treatment strategies to improve outcomes. The canine model of spinal cord injury (SCI) is being proposed as a translational model for human SCI, given that is also is spontaneous in nature and bears similarities to acute SCI people.