New software to create an interactive 3-D map of the brain

As reported in Technology Review today.

 

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Researchers at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, in Philadelphia, have developed software that integrates data from multiple imaging technologies to create an interactive 3-D map of the brain. The enhanced visualization gives neurosurgeons a much clearer picture of the spatial relationship of a patient’s brain structures than is possible with any single imaging methods. In doing so, it could serve as an advanced guide for surgical procedures, such as brain-tumor removal and epilepsy surgery.

The new imaging software collates data from different types of brain-imaging methods, including conventional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), functional MRI (fMRI), and diffusion-tensor imaging (DTI). The MRI gives details on the anatomy, fMRI provides information on the activated areas of the brain, and DTI provides images of the network of nerve fibers connecting different brain areas. The fusion of these different images produces a 3-D display that surgeons can manipulate: they can navigate through the images at different orientations, virtually slice the brain in different sections, and zoom in on specific sections.

Currently, physicians typically view the images produced by MRI technologies individually, and they conceptually visualize what the images might look like combined. “Before this type of software package, I would put up an fMRI image and put up a regular MRI of the brain and try to match the two in my brain to try to get a 3-D sense of the right spot to make an incision,” says Ashwini Sharan, a neurosurgeon at the Jefferson Comprehensive Epilepsy Center.

 

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