Three-dimensional Maps

The tool converts MRI scans using special techniques to three-dimensional images. This now makes it possible to view a total picture of the winding roads and their contacts without having to operate.

To know accurately where the main nerve bundles in the brain are located is of immense importance for neurosurgeons, explains Professor Bart ter Haar Romenij. As an example he cites ‘deep brain stimulation’, with which vibration seizures in patients with Parkinson’s disease can be suppressed.

"With this new tool, you can determine exactly where to place the stimulation electrode in the brain. The guiding map has been improved: because we now see the roads on the map, we know better where to stick the needle." The technique may also yield many new insights into neurological and psychiatric disorders. And it is important for brain surgeons to know in advance where the critical nerve bundles are, to avoid damaging them.

The accuracy of the tool is a great step forward. Especially intersections of nerve bundles were difficult to identify till now. Romenij: "You can now see for the first time the spaghetti-like structures and their connections." We are far from seeing all brain connections; there are many more smaller compounds in the brains, who are not seen by the new tool. A microscope observed them. "But you cannot, of course, dissect a live patient into slices for under a microscope," the professor smiles.

The tool is based on a recently developed technology called HARDI (High Angular Resolution Diffusion Imaging). The MRI measuring technique for HARDI was already there, the research team took care of the processing, interpretation and interactive visualization of these very complex data, so that doctors can get to work.

Romenij expects that the tool can be ready at relatively short notice for use in the hospital within a few years. "We need to validate the package. We now need to prove that the images match reality." Also, there is still work to do on the speed of the corresponding MRI scan. For a detailed view, a patient needs to be one hour in the scanner, which is too long. Moreover, the tool is already widely in use by other scientists, says Romenij.; Source: Eindhoven University of Technology