Section: Application Domains

Human neuroimaging data and their use

Human neuroimaging consists in acquiring non-invasively image data from normal and diseased human populations. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) can be used to acquire information on brain structure and function at high spatial resolution.

  • T1-weighted MRI is used to obtain a segmentation of the brain into different different tissues, such as gray matter, white matter, deep nuclei, cerebro-spinal fluid, at the millimeter or sub-millimeter resolution. This can then be used to derive geometric and anatomical information on the brain, e.g. cortical thickness.

  • Diffusion-weighted MRI measures the local diffusion of water molecules in the brain at the resolution of 1 to 2mm, in a set of directions (60 typically). Local anisotropy, observed in white matter, yields a local model of fiber orientation that can be integrated into a geometric model of fiber tracts along which water diffusion occurs, and thus provides information on the connectivity structure of the brain.

  • Functional MRI measures the blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) contrast that reflects neural activity in the brain, at a spatial resolution of 1.5 to 3mm, and a temporal resolution of about 2s. This yields a spatially resolved image of brain functional networks that can be modulated either by specific cognitive tasks or exhibit spontaneous co-activations.

  • Electro- and Magneto-encephalography (MEEG) are two additional modalities that complement functional MRI, as they directly measure the electric and magnetic signals elicited by neural activity, at the millisecond scale. These modalities rely on surface measurements and do not localize brain activity very accurately in the spatial domain.