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Precision brain science: Advances in connectome mapping for individual human brains

Event date: 
Thursday, 14 April, 2016 - 11:00 to 12:00
Seminar title: 
Precision brain science: Advances in connectome mapping for individual human brains
Franco Pestilli
Indiana University

Magnetic resonance diffusion imaging and computational
tractography are the only technologies that enable neuroscientists to
measure white matter in the living human brain. In the decade since
their development, these technologies revolutionized our understanding
of the importance of the human white-matter for health and disease.
There are good reasons to make these measurements in human. The human
brain (1400 g) is 15 times the volume of the rhesus monkey (90 g), 700
times the volume of the rat (2 g) and 2,300 times the volume of the
mouse brain (0.6 g). The human brain comprises of functionally
specific clusters of maps communicating via an extensive network of
long-range, myelinated, axonal projects. The size of the human brain
imposes significant challenges for communicating across different

Prior to these technologies, the white matter was thought of as a
passive cabling system. But modern measurements show that white matter
axons and glia respond to experience and that the tissue properties of
the white matter are transformed during development and following
training. The white matter pathways comprise a set of active wires and
the responses and properties of these wires predict human cognitive
and emotional abilities in health and disease. We can now predict
confidently that to crack the neural code in mapping the human brain,
neuroscientists will have to develop an account of the connections and
tissue properties of these active wires.  Whereas there are many
impressive findings, it is widely agreed that there is an urgent need
to keep developing and improving tractography methods.  The need for a
systematic approach to tractography validation and for a framework to
perform statistical model testing in individual brains has been
claimed (Pestilli Nature: Scientific Data 2015).

First, I will present new framework for performing tractography
evaluation and statistical inferecne on the network of brain
connections (Pestilli et al., Nature Methods 2014).  Second, I will
introduce recent advances in methods for mapping human connectomes in
living individuals (Takemura et al., PLoS computational Biology 2016).
These new methods improve current techniques in fundamental ways and
can be applied to any type of diffusion data.Finally, I will briefly
show that by using the methods we were able to identify a major
white-matter pathways previously unreported in the human brain. Such
as sensory-motor integration (Takemura et al., Cerebral Cortex 2015;
Yeatman et al., PNAS 2014), object-perception (Gomez et al., Neuron
2015) and decision making related pathways (Leong et al., Neuron

Palazzo Fedrigotti, Corso Bettini 31 Rovereto – Semina Room 3rd floor
Research topics: