Research

Carl-Fredrik WestinSandy WellsPolina Golland
Steve Pieper
Michael Halle
Carl-Fredrik Westin, PhDSandy Wells, PhDPolina Golland, PhDSteve Pieper, PhDMike Halle, PhD
Microstructure Imaging Core PISpatio-Temporal Modeling Core PIAnatomic Variability Core PISlicer Core PIInfrastructure Core PI

Advancing nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to a micrometer scale has great potential to enhance the study of neurological disease. However, the ability to advance to this scale is limited by existing methods in neuroimage analysis. The Microstructure Imaging Core is developing new methods to quantify the relation between MRI findings and pathophysiologic change in neural tissues at a microstructural scale. Using diffusion MRI (dMRI), the team is developing novel methods to quantify tissue geometry by measuring the micro-displacement of water molecules. Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) is being used to explore metabolic change in the 'chemical' nuclei. Both of these methods exploit existing neuroimaging modalities to reveal new biomarkers of neuropathologic disease in vivo. The work of this core is organized around the following specific aims.

The Spatio-Temporal Modeling Core develops statistical methods for the analysis of functional MRI (fMRI) in populations and for the group-wise registration of large datasets. New lines of research include the analysis of multi-modal functional data and studies of the relationship between structure and function, which are used for neurosurgical intervention and other applications that require detailed maps of cortical areas that show these relationships. The work of this core is organized around the following specific aims.

The Anatomic Variability Core develops computational models of anatomical heterogeneity in large populations for the purpose of providing accurate priors for atlas-based segmentation of anatomical structures in neuroimaging. Segmentation is particularly challenging if the shape of the anatomical structure of interest varies substantially in a population, such as would be observed in a progressive neurodegenerative disorder or cancer. Building computational models that capture highly variable anatomy and using the information to improve image segmentation are the main objectives of this Core. The proposed research will add to previous accomplishments in MRI-based atlas development by incorporating algorithms that characterize not only the canonical representative in the atlas, but also the anatomical variability of a population. The goal is to develop a new generation of robust segmentation tools capable of incorporating knowledge about pathology-induced anatomical variability. Such tools are essential to achieving progress in the patient-specific analysis of disease. The work of this core is organized around the following specific aims.

The role of the Slicer Core is to facilitate the practical translation of NAC technologies to a user accessible platform in support of internal NAC research, clinical application, and broader dissemination. These goals are accomplished through the creation and maintenance of software for 3D Slicer (a.k.a. Slicer), a package which has grown over the last 10 years from a graduate student project within NAC to a leading tool in the image analysis field. Slicer has a strong network of contributing authors supported by a number of funding mechanisms including the National Alliance for Medical Image Computing (NA-MIC) and the National Center for Image Guided Therapy (NCIGT). NCIGT also provides the driving biomedical project (DBP) for this core. Each of our partners brings a unique set of driving projects and investigators that strengthen the underlying Slicer platform. The NCI Quantitative Imaging Network (QIN) and the Ontario SparKit efforts, both of which are service collaborations of NAC, provide additional motivating use cases and development synergy. Within the NAC research community, creation of Slicer-compatible code is a recognized sign that ideas have matured from initial concept to a form suitable for users to test with their own data. Clinical domain experts are the key group of users for Slicer. They provide both the problem definitions and the working context in which new ideas and approaches can be evaluated and improved. These efforts result in code modules in Slicer that form the basis for outreach efforts. In this way, the research community can benefit from both the original published method and the embodiment of the concept within a working tool. The work of this core is organized around the following specific aims.

The overarching goal of the Infrastructure Core, is to develop and maintain a standard software foundation to support the atlases developed by the other technology cores. This core works closely with other NAC researchers to encourage the translation of research technologies and ideas into robust, shareable anatomical atlases, as well as with NAC's dissemination, outreach, and training activities. The work of this core is organized under the following specific aims.