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Mapping the brain using fMRI decoding techniques, a FENS Forum workshop

Núria Estapé i Cot abril 26, 2012 Destacado, Entrevistas, Eventos y Actividades No Comments

The neuroscientist Dimitri Van De Ville will chair the FENS Forum workshop W03, ‘mapping the brain using fMRI decoding techniques’. This session will look at intriguing aspects of the brain’s connectivity and will provide us with new insights on how the latest brain decoding techniques could ultimately lead to the establishment of image based clinical markers.

Van De Ville works as assistant professor at the University of Geneva and at the EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne).

These is what he has to say about his FENS Forum workshop:

1. What is the aim of the work presented in your workshop?

 Promoting “brain decoding” as a new advanced methodology for fMRI data analysis. In conventional analysis of fMRI data, one looks for evidence of stimulus-related activity in measured brain regions. For example, visual stimulation activates importants parts of the occipital lobe: the measured signal at those locations will show high correlation with the stimulation paradigm. The “brain decoding” approach that is presented in this workshop inverts the relationship “stimulus–data”; i.e., based on the data, one is predicting the type of brain activity that was at its origin. We want to present this emerging methodology to a larger audience in the neuroscience community. 

Brain network image:  visualizes the brain’s cortical surface (left side) and a model of the brain as a network (right side) where the vertices represent the centers of gravity of different brain regions (45 per hemisphere) and the edges can correspond to different types of connectivity (e.g., structural or functional, such as in this case). This modeling is used to compare the brain’s network characterization at different cognitive states or in a clinical setting when comparing patients against healthy controls. 

2. What are the significant data that will be announced?

The leaders in the field will present their work, which has already led to very impressive results. For example, certain types of visual perception can be decoded from early primary visual cortex, even when the subject was fully unaware of it. One of the recent breakthroughs that will be showcased is patient-status discovery in neurological disease by a discriminative signature in functional connectivity obtained during simple a resting state fMRI session. This work could lead to new imaging-based markers in clinical practice. It should, however, be noted that the primary aim of the workshop is not to show the most recent work, but to make the neuroscience community at large aware of this new methodology. Brain decoding also bring along new ethical issues when these techniques are applied to lie detection and the question of free will.  

3. What is the importance and relevance of this work?

Advancing our understanding of brain signals and information flow. As opposed to conventional fMRI analysis, brain decoding treats all voxels simultaneously and thus subtle patterns and interplay can contribute to reveal information. This can give new insights in where and how information flows in the brain. Many applications in neuroimaging can benefit from these new developments, including new imaging markers for clinical diagnosis & prognosis, and future neuroprosthetic devices that will require better decoding and encoding of brain signals. 

Nuria Estapé i Cot,
Directora de la Oficina de comunicación de la SENC

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