Dr. Robert Tarzwell

header icon Dr. Robert Tarzwell


Physician Profile



Specialization: Nuclear Medicine



Dr. Robert Tarzwell has dual specialties in psychiatry and nuclear medicine, and he actively practices both. His primary clinical and research interest is the role of functional brain imaging in psychiatric disorders, specifically brain perfusion SPECT (single-photon emission computed tomography). SPECT is exquisitely sensitive in the detection of traumatic brain injury and is thus an objective biomarker. His research on the use of SPECT to discriminate TBI from PTSD was cited 19th on the Top 100 Stories of 2015 by Discover Magazine, coming in just behind Tesla's announcement of a home battery system. He is a clinical assistant professor on the Faculty of Medicine at UBC, a member of the residency research committee for the Department of Psychiatry, and he actively supervises medical students, clinical residents, and research residents.

Brain perfusion SPECT is a test which uses a tiny dose of a radioactive tracer to measure relative differences in blood flow throughout the brain. Neurons cannot store energy, so changes in metabolism are tightly coupled to changes in local blood flow through a given volume of tissue, known as "perfusion." We therefore use perfusion as a marker of metabolism, to determine which areas of the brain are overactive, underactive, or within normal limits. The gamma camera used to perform these tests at Lions Gate Hospital is a dedicated brain-imaging system and gives the highest spatial resolution available for brain SPECT west of Toronto.

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