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Software for Brain Mapping

A team of researchers at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) in the Netherlands has developed a software tool that physicians can use to easily study the wiring of the brains of their patients. The tool converts MRI scans to three-dimensional images. Biomedical engineering researcher Vesna Prčkovska defended her Ph.D. thesis on this subject last week.

To know accurately where the main nerve bundles in the brain are located is of immense importance for neurosurgeons, according to Bart ter Haar Romenij, professor of Biomedical Image Analysis in the TU/e Department of Biomedical Engineering.

"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," ter Haar Romenij said. 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. According to ter Haar Romenij, "You can now see for the first time the spaghetti-like structures and their connections."

The tool was developed by TU/e researcher Anna Vilanova, with her PhD students Vesna Prčkovska, Tim Peeters, and Paulo Rodrigues. A demonstration of the package can be found on YouTube here. The tool is based on a recently developed technology called High Angular Resolution Diffusion Imaging (HARDI). The MRI measuring technique for HARDI was already there, the research team took care of the processing, interpretation, and interactive visualization of these very complex data.

Bart ter Haar Romenij expects the tool to be ready relatively soon for use in hospitals within a few years. "We need to validate the package. We now need to prove that the images match reality."

The research was supported by NWO (Dutch Organization for Scientific Research). The thesis of Vesna Prčkovska is titled, "High Angular Resolution Diffusion Imaging, Processing & Visualization." She graduated last Wednesday, October 20, 2010.

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