All major types of epilepsy share similar underpinnings
INI’s Imaging Genetics Center launched the Enhancing Neuro Imaging Genetics through Meta-Analysis (ENIGMA) Epilepsy working group, which analyzed nearly 4,000 brain scans in one of the largest epilepsy imaging studies ever conducted. The researchers identified two key brain regions with consistent abnormalities across epilepsy patients: the thalamus, involved in sensory relay, and the precentral gyrus, the brain’s primary motor region. The findings indicate that epilepsies, a group of disorders known to vary greatly in causes and presentations across patients, may share mechanisms that are amenable to treatment. INI is also a key contributor to the Epilepsy Bioinformatics Study for Antiepileptogenic Therapy (EpiBioS4Rx), a five-year effort to identify biomarkers for post-traumatic epilepsy.
Open-source stroke dataset released
A USC-led team, including INI’s Sook-Lei Liew, Tyler Ard and Hosung Kim, has compiled, archived and shared one of the largest open-source datasets of MRI scans from stroke patients via a study published February 20 in Scientific Data, a Nature journal. The Anatomical Tracings of Lesions After Stroke (ATLAS) has already been downloaded by 33 research groups worldwide and is being used to train algorithms that can automatically process MRI images from stroke patients. Ultimately, researchers hope to use the automated technology to forecast which patients will respond to various rehabilitation stroke therapies and personalize treatment plans accordingly.
Researchers map vestibulocochlear nerve
Keck School of Medicine of USC researchers, including INI’s Ryan Cabeen, Meng Law, and Arthur W. Toga, are using diffusion-weighted MRI to reconstruct 3D tractography models of the vestibulocochlear nerve (VCN) in children with severe-to-profound sensorineural hearing loss. The work will help researchers better understand and quantify anatomical changes underlying hearing loss and may ultimately allow clinicians to use MRI to identify candidates for surgery and to guide the placement of cochlear implants. A highlight of the study so far, which is currently in its pilot phase, is the successful separation of the VCN into models characterizing each component nerve that carries information from the cochlea, vestibular system and face.
Brains of Chinese and Caucasian cohorts exhibit key structural differences
Yuchun Tang, Yonggang Shi and Arthur W. Toga of INI partnered with researchers from Shandong University in China to analyze neuroanatomical differences between two populations: young Han Chinese and Caucasian males. Using structural MRI data, the research found significant differences in cortical thickness, volume and surface area in multiple brain regions. These structural disparities may underlie functional and behavioral differences between the two populations. In February, the paper was published online ahead of print in Human Brain Mapping.
INI joins the BRAIN Initiative
Hong-Wei Dong, professor of neurology and director of INI’s Center for Integrative Connectomics, has received $19 million to help create a classification system for cells in the brain. Dong and his team have joined the BRAIN Initiative Cell Census Network, a five-year multisite collaboration and offshoot of the prestigious NIH-led BRAIN Initiative. The researchers will build on the revolutionary Mouse Connectome Project by studying the neuroanatomy, connectivity and transcriptomes of cells in the mouse brain.
Reinvestigating the link between gender and Alzheimer’s disease
Hong-Wei Dong promoted to Professor
INI's Hong-Wei Dong was promoted to professor of neurology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. Dong has been at the university since 2013 and has worked with LONI since 2006. As director of the Center for Integrative Connectomics, he and his team study mouse brain connectivity and neuroanatomy, neuronal cell types and the differences in connectivity underlying neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and autism spectrum disorders.
Siemens engineer begins residency at INI
Jin Jin, senior scientist at Siemens Medical Solutions USA, began a three-year residency at USC’s Health Sciences Campus, where he will support USC teams collecting ultra-high field MRI data. With a specialty in magnetic field strength of 7Tesla or higher, Jin is collaborating with INI researchers—including Danny Wang, Meng Law, Kay Jann and Lirong Yan—who are using the institute’s new Siemens Magnetom Terra 7T MRI scanner to acquire high-resolution images of the living human brain.
Featured INI postdoctoral fellows
Ryan Cabeen, Dogu Baran Aydogan, and Michael Bienkowski
Ryan Cabeen (left) is a Los Angeles native who received his PhD in Computer Science from Brown University. He is currently developing computational tools for 3D visualization, data exploration and large-scale image processing, with an emphasis on quantifying brain microstructure and connectivity using diffusion MRI. He also collaborates with researchers across the Keck School of Medicine of USC to understand neurodevelopment and to quantitate and visualize the structure of the vestibulocochlear nerve in children with severe hearing loss.
Dogu Baran Aydogan was born in Izmir, Turkey. He earned his MS and PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Tampere University of Technology, Tampere, Finland in 2007 and 2014 respectively. He researches the connectivity of the brain using diffusion MRI images, and in 2016 he received the Young Scientist Award at the International Conference on Medical Image Computing and Computer Assisted Intervention (MICCAI).
Michael Bienkowski received his PhD in neuroscience from the University of Pittsburgh in 2012. His research focuses on the relationship between anatomy, genetics, and function within brain regions involved in memory and emotion. He recently discovered genetic boundaries indicating distinct cell differences in the hippocampus, which he leveraged to create an anatomical atlas of the region, laying the foundation for major advancements spanning several areas of research.
Check back next quarter to meet three more of our postdocs.