USC Mark and Mary Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute Newsletter / Fall 2019
Enhancing the Visibility of Perivascular Spaces
In August, an INI-led team that included Farshid Sepehrband, PhD, Giuseppe Barisano, MD, Ryan Cabeen, PhD, Jeiran Choupan, PhD, and Arthur W. Toga, PhD, published a breakthrough study of perivascular spaces (PVS), fluid-filled structures in the brain involved in circulation and waste clearance, in the Nature journal Scientific Reports. Using a new image processing method, the researchers reduced noise and enhanced contrast in MR images of PVS, improving their visibility and allowing more accurate mapping and quantification to aid future research and clinical efforts.
Jim Stanis, INI’s medical animator, created this animation depicting the perivascular spaces (PVS), also known as Virchow-Robin space, which has significant clinical value to support medical diagnosis and enable novel neuroscientific investigations.
10 Years of ENIGMA
INI’s Paul Thompson, PhD, Neda Jahanshad, PhD, Lauren Salminen, PhD, and several staff researchers coauthored a 10-year retrospective of the Enhancing Neuro Imaging Genetics through Meta-Analysis (ENIGMA) consortium, which has fueled a decade of large-scale studies of the brain in health and disease across more than 40 countries. The article discusses the network’s impact, including the progress of more than 50 working groups that pool data to answer fundamental questions about psychiatric and neurological conditions, development and aging, sex differences and more.
New Findings in Epilepsy Bioinformatics Study
INI researchers Rachael Garner, Marianna La Rocca, PhD, Giuseppe Barisano, MD, Arthur W. Toga, PhD, and Dominique Duncan, PhD, worked with UCLA’s Paul Vespa, MD, to build a machine learning model that uses resting-state fMRI to classify traumatic brain injury patients who have experienced a seizure within six months of their injury and patients who have had no seizures. The study, which was published in the proceedings of the 2019 Spring Simulation Conference, is the first to use machine learning to perform such a posttraumatic epilepsy classification in a patient-only cohort.
Testing Virtual Reality Neurofeedback for Stroke Rehabilitation
INI’s Sook-Lei Liew, PhD, published a pilot study of REINVENT, a platform that combines virtual reality with a brain-computer interface to strengthen motor pathways and support recovery in patients who have experienced strokes. Her team found that patients with severe motor impairments benefitted from rehabilitation work with REINVENT.
New Realities at the INI
On October 1, the institute released a revolutionary augmented reality (AR) smartphone application, Schol-AR, that allows users to explore 3D, interactive visualizations embedded in journal articles, conference posters, and promotional materials. The new technology, built at the INI by Tyler Ard, PhD, will also host materials from other researchers across USC and beyond and represents a breakthrough new way of engaging with scientific data that holds potential for significant collective impact within the field of neuroscience and beyond.
Other Progress in Scientific Visualization
INI’s medical animator Jim Stanis and postdoctoral scholar Ryan Cabeen, PhD, collaborated to create a sophisticated animation depicting the brain’s white matter fibers, which won second place in the NIH BRAIN Initiative’s 2019 “Show Us Your Brain” contest. The stunning video was also featured on the NIH Director’s Blog in August.
INI Names New Director of Education
On August 1, Meredith Braskie, PhD, assistant professor of neurology at the INI, was named the institute’s new Director of Education. Dr. Braskie will oversee the Master of Science in Neuroimaging and Informatics program as well as the institute’s range of training and outreach initiatives for students and professionals. One of her initiatives for the next year involves providing additional informatics and data analytics training to students.
Sook-Lei Liew Mentors Aspiring Neuroscientist
INI’s Sook-Lei Liew was featured in Fast Forward Girls, a new YouTube series from children’s multimedia company GoldieBlox. She shared her research on virtual reality for stroke rehabilitation with Bailey Ballinger, an aspiring neuroscientist, in an episode that was viewed more than 750,000 times.
INI Trainee Publishes First Journal Article
Shaina Sta. Cruz, a recent graduate of California State University, Fullerton and participant in INI’s Big Data Discovery and Diversity through Research Education Advancement and Partnerships (BD3-REAP) program, which trains undergraduate students in big data science, achieved lead authorship on her first peer-reviewed paper in May. She worked with her INI mentors, Farshid Sepehrband, PhD, and Hosung Kim, PhD, to test a machine learning alternative to the long and laborious process of correcting errors that occur during the automated processing of brain scan data.
INI Researcher Explores Link Between Transgender Brain and Gender Identity
Jonathan Vanhoecke, who graduated from INI’s Master of Science in Neuroimaging and Informatics (NIIN) program in May, is studying the brain structure of transgender people to help tailor care and support. He’s now working with the Enhancing Neuro Imaging Genetics through Meta-Analysis (ENIGMA) consortium, incorporating a big data perspective to better understand differences between cisgender and transgender participants.
Other Training & Outreach Efforts
- Students from California State University, Fullerton who were part of the Big Data Discovery and Diversity through Research Education Advancement and Partnerships (BD3-REAP) program presented their summer research on neuroimaging and data science to the institute’s faculty and staff.
- Students from the neighboring Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School attended a day of tours and presentations at the institute to learn about careers in neuroscience and opportunities at the INI.
- The USC Bovard Scholars, a group of high-achieving, low-income high school students selected for a summer residency at USC, attended a daylong seminar at the institute. The event included panel discussions, demonstrations and networking opportunities with INI faculty and staff researchers.
- The Global Alzheimer's Association Interactive Network (GAAIN) team attended the 2019 Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Los Angeles, providing information and tutorials of the data-finding tool to Alzheimer's and dementia researchers.