Section: Application Domains


One research objective in neuroimaging is the construction of anatomical and functional cerebral maps under normal and pathological conditions.

Many researches are currently performed to find correlations between anatomical structures, essentially sulci and gyri, where neuronal activation takes place, and cerebral functions, as assessed by recordings obtained by the means of various neuroimaging modalities, such as PET (Positron Emission Tomography), fMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging), EEG (Electro-EncephaloGraphy) and MEG (Magneto-EncephaloGraphy). Then, a central problem inherent to the formation of such maps is to put together recordings obtained from different modalities and from different subjects. This mapping can be greatly facilitated by the use of MR anatomical brain scans with high spatial resolution that allows a proper visualization of fine anatomical structures (sulci and gyri). Recent improvements in image processing techniques, such as segmentation, registration, delineation of the cortical ribbon, modeling of anatomical structures and multi-modality fusion, make possible this ambitious goal in neuroimaging. This problem is very rich in terms of applications since both clinical and neuroscience applications share similar problems. Since this domain is very generic by nature, our major contributions are directed towards clinical needs even though our work can address some specific aspects related to the neuroscience domain.

Multiple sclerosis: Over the past years, a discrepancy became apparent between clinical Multiple sclerosis (MS) classification describing on the one hand MS according to four different disease courses and, on the other hand, the description of two different disease stages (an early inflammatory and a subsequently neurodegenerative phase). It is to be expected that neuroimaging will play a critical role to define in vivo those four different MS lesion patterns. An in vivo distinction between the four MS lesion patterns, and also between early and late stages of MS will have an important impact in the future for a better understanding of the natural history of MS and even more for the appropriate selection and monitoring of drug treatment in MS patients. Since MRI has a low specificity for defining in more detail the pathological changes which could discriminate between the different lesion types, but a high sensitivity to detect focal and also widespread, diffuse pathology of the normal appearing white and grey matter, our major objective within this application domain is to define new neuroimaging markers for tracking the evolution of the pathology from high dimensional data (e.g. nD+t MRI). In addition, in order to complement MR neuroimaging data, we ambition to perform also cell labeling neuroimaging (e.g. MRI or PET) and to compare MR and PET data using standard and experimental MR contrast agents and radiolabeled PET tracers for activated microglia (e.g. USPIO or PK 11195). The goal is to define and develop, for routine purposes, cell specific and also quantitative imaging markers for the improved in vivo characterization of MS pathology.

Modeling of anatomical and anatomo-functional neurological patterns: The major objective within this application domain is to build anatomical and functional brain atlases in the context of functional mapping for pre-surgical planning and for the study of developmental, neurodegenerative or even psychiatric brain diseases (Multiple sclerosis, Epilepsy, Parkinson, Dysphasia, Depression or even Alzheimer). This is a very competitive research domain; our contribution is based on our previous works in this field  [60] , [62] , [61] , [64] , and by continuing our local and wider collaborations.

An additional objective within this application domain is to find new descriptors to study the brain anatomy and/or function (e.g. variation of brain perfusion, evolution in shape and size of an anatomical structure in relation with pathology or functional patterns, computation of asymmetries ...). This is also a very critical research domain, especially for many developmental or neurodegenerative brain diseases.