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Q-ball based Morphometry for applications to psychiatric disorders


The mechanisms of neuropathology of schizophrenia and autism are not yet well understood, and disease specific markers have not been identified. Early diagnosis is impeded by resemblance of symptoms to those of other psychological/behavioural disorders.

Conventional magnetic resonance image neither carries enough information to enable accurate spatial normalization of deep white matter (WM) structures, nor it can explore cerebral dismaturation or alterations in WM connectivity, assumed to be involved in these disorders. High-angular diffusion imaging, or q-ball imaging (QBI), provides complementary information on organization of fibers in WM, and has a great potential for accurate WM spatial normalization.

This project proposes to employ QBI for fiber tracking and detailed representation of WM fibers. Based on QBI, a model of major fiber bundles will be created. Fiber bundles of patients and normal volunteers corresponding to this model will be used to constrain the spatial normalization of WM. WM QBI based morphometry will be performed on normalized data in dedicated coordinate systems assigned to each major fiber bundle in the common space.

In cortical mantle, QBI based morphometry will be carried out with respect to a coordinate system attached to the 2-dimensional cortical surface of a template dataset. Changes in WM connectivity and cortical myeloarchitectonics in each disorder will be mapped to offer conclusions on disease specific markers. This should substantially facilitate early diagnosis in schizophrenia and autism, greatly improving the prognosis and final outcome. Primary therapeutic targets will be suggested.

The project is of tremendous importance in the field of psychiatric disorders, which simultaneously implies its considerable social aspect. The proposed methods are generic and could be equally applied to other neurological disorders and neurodegenerative diseases, and also to the studies of normal brain maturation and connectivity.

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