Researchers from Eindhoven University of Technology have developed a software tool to convert MRI scans of the brain into 3D wiring maps that may help physicians treat neuro disorders. The technology utilizes data using HARDI technology (High Angular Resolution Diffusion Imaging) and processes it to make it visually comprehensible.
To know accurately where the main nerve bundles in the brain are located is of immense importance for neurosurgeons, explains Bart ter Haar Romenij (professor of Biomedical Image Analysis, at the Department of Biomedical Engineering). As an example he cites ‘deep brain stimulation’, with which vibration seizures in patients with Parkinson’s disease can be suppressed. "With this new tool, you can determine exactly where to place the stimulation electrode in the brain. The guiding map has been improved: because we now see the roads on the map, we know better where to stick the needle." The technique may also yield many new insights into neurological and psychiatric disorders. And it is important for brain surgeons to know in advance where the critical nerve bundles are, to avoid damaging them.
The accuracy of the tool is a great step forward. Especially intersections of nerve bundles were difficult to identify till now. Ter Haar Romenij: "You can now see for the first time the spaghetti-like structures and their connections." We are far from seeing all brain connections; there are many more smaller compounds in the brains, who are not seen by the new tool. A microscope observed them. "But you cannot, of course, dissect a live patient into slices for under a microscope," the professor smiles.
The tool was developed by TU/e researcher Anna Vilanova, with her PhD students Vesna PrÄkovska, Tim Peeters and Paulo Rodrigues.
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