McGill University researchers map hippocampus to aid brain research

por Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | December 07, 2015
Alzheimers/Neurology MRI Population Health X-Ray
The hippocampus
Courtesy of Dr. Neda Bernasconi
Researchers from the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (The Neuro) at McGill University have created a detailed map of the hippocampus to help the scientific community develop more effective treatments for patients with neurological and psychiatric disorders. The project was published in the journal Scientific Data.

The hippocampus is the part of the brain that has an important role in many cognitive processes including declarative memory and is one of the main centers of the brain involved in epilepsy. Epilepsy is characterized by unpredictable seizures and is the fourth most common neurological disorder, according to the Epilepsy Foundation.

There are anti-epileptic drugs on the market, but some patients don’t respond to them and are required to undergo surgery to remove the brain tissue causing the seizures in order to control their condition. The map will help clinicians locate the affected region of the brain to better target treatments.
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For patients who are on medications, physicians currently use therapeutic drug monitoring to assess the medications' effectiveness, which involves keeping records of what medication they take and how it affects them, and when they have seizures and what they are like, according to the Epilepsy Society.

The researchers at The Neuro used MR images from a sample of 25 healthy individuals acquired on a 3T system with a 32 phased-array head coil to construct the map of the hippocampus. They then used their knowledge of brain anatomy to label the substructures in order to depict an average, healthy hippocampus.

"With this new submillimetric dataset, made available through open science, we are not just sharing MRI images, we are also transferring anatomical knowledge and providing a statistical map that can be used by researchers and clinicians of different levels of expertise anywhere in the world," Dr. Neda Bernasconi, a neuroscientist specializing in the neuroimaging of epilepsy and co-founder of the Neuroimaging of Epilepsy Laboratory (NOEL) at The Neuro, said in a statement.

The map is available on the Dryad Digital Repository and the Neuroimaging Informatics Tools and Resources Clearinghouse websites. The main function of the map is for epilepsy, but it also may be useful for other neurological and psychiatric disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, and depression.

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