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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/L023067/1
Title: Anatomy-Driven Brain Connectivity Mapping
Principal Investigator: Behrens, Professor TEJ
Other Investigators:
Jbabdi, Professor S
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Dr S Sotiropoulos
Project Partners:
Harvard University UCL University of Rochester
Washington University in St Louis
Department: Clinical Neurosciences
Organisation: University of Oxford
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 31 August 2014 Ends: 30 August 2017 Value (£): 432,764
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Med.Instrument.Device& Equip.
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Healthcare
Related Grants:
EP/L022680/1
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
29 Apr 2014 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 29 April 2014 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The connectome, the comprehensive map of neural connections in the human brain, is unique in every individual. Even identical twins differ at the level of neural connectivity. Mapping the human connectome and its variability across individuals is essential in getting insight into the unknown cognitive aspects of brain function, but also into identifying dysfunctional features of the diseased brain.

For these reasons, understanding the human brain, its organisation and ultimately its function, is amongst the key scientific challenges of the 21st century. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has revolutionised neuroscience by uniquely allowing both brain anatomy and function to be probed in living humans. Even if MRI allows only macroscopic features to be recovered (at the level of relatively large tissue regions, rather than individual neuronal cells), its non-invasive and in-vivo application has opened tremendous possibilities for brain research. Diffusion-weighted MRI (dMRI) is a particular modality that uniquely allows the mapping of fibre bundles, the underlying connection pathways that mediate information flow between different brain regions. The connection mapping is performed indirectly by processing dMRI images via computational algorithms referred to as tractography.

Tractography has already provided fundamental new insights into brain anatomy. The importance of brain connectivity to our understanding of the brain along, with the great potential revealed by tractography algorithms have led to large initiatives from both sides of the Atlantic. These utilise dMRI to collect state-of-the-art datasets of the healthy adult and the developing brain and map the structural connectome through tractography. They include the $30M NIH Human Connectome Project, the 15M Euros ERC Developing Human Connectome Project and the £30M UK funded Biobank Imaging. However, without state-of-the-art analysis methods, and new ways of analysing dMRI data, researchers will fai to get the most out of this vast wealth of upcoming data.

In this project, we propose new frameworks for tractography methods centred on neuroanatomy. We particularly focus on problems arising from ambiguous mapping of complex geometries (which are very common in the brain) to the dMRI measurements. These pose significant limits to the accuracy of existing approaches. We propose wholesale changes through computational and algorithmic solutions that will allow connections to be measured in-vivo with unprecedented detail, whole brain organization to be studied at a much finer scale and anatomical features -invisible to existing techniques- to be revealed. These advances will open new possibilities for neuroanatomical studies, but also set the foundations for new basic research in MRI processing and connectivity mapping. We will illustrate their potential using compelling demonstrator applications from basic and clinical neuroscience, including the assessment of benefits from using the new technology in assisting neurosurgical planning.
Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.ox.ac.uk