Section: Research Program
Modeling brain structure: from imaging to geometric models
Structural MRI (anatomical or diffusion-weighted) allows studying in vivo the anatomical architecture of the brain. Thanks to the constant advance of these imaging techniques, it is now possible to visualize various anatomical structures and lesions with a high spatial resolution. Computational neuroanatomy aims at building models of the structure of the human brain, based on MRI data. This general endeavor requires addressing the following methodological issues: i) the extraction of geometrical objects (anatomical structures, lesions, white matter tracks...) from anatomical and diffusion-weighted MRI; ii) the design of a coherent mathematical framework to model anatomical shapes and compare them across individuals. Within this context, we pursue the following objectives.
First, we aim to develop new methods to segment anatomical structures and lesions. We are most specifically interested in the hippocampus, a structure playing a crucial role in Alzheimer's disease, and in lesions of vascular origin (such as white matter hyperintensities and microbleeds). We pay particular attention to the robustness of the approaches with respect to normal and pathological anatomical variability and with respect to differences in acquisition protocols, for application to multicenter studies. We dedicate specific efforts to the validation on large populations of coming from patients data acquired in multiple centers.
Then, we develop approaches to estimate templates from populations and compare anatomical shapes, based on a diffeomorphic deformation framework and matching of distributions. These methods allow the estimation of a prototype configuration (called template) that is representative of a collection of anatomical data. The matching of this template to each observation gives a characterization of the anatomical variability within the population, which is used to define statistics. In particular, we aim to design approaches that can integrate multiple objects and modalities, across different spatial scales.