Research Activities

Multiple sclerosis project

  • Some of the major ongoing research issues in neuroimaging of Multiple Sclerosis concern the definition of new neuroimaging biomarkers for tracking the evolution of the pathology from high dimensional data (e.g. nD+t MRI). This includes the use of white matter specific imaging like Magnetization Transfer MRI, Relaxometry, Diffusion Tensor imaging (DT-MRI), or cell labeling neuroimaging (e.g. from MRI or PET).
  • One of the major objectives of our project is to develop new information processing methods to detect and evaluate MR Imaging biomarkers in the context of MS and especially the early stages of the disease. This work will bear on ongoing clinical research multicenter imaging study, which consists of multiparametric MRI acquired on 3T MR scanners with and without contrast agents. Our first objective is to model the different forms of MS focal lesions through automatic and supervised procedures, to develop information-processing tools to tag the lesion spatio-temporal evolutions with different signatures. Our second objective will then consist in analyzing the MR signatures around lesions to analyze the spatio-temporal evolution of the normal appearing brain tissue and the related potential diffuse lesions (not visible from contrast MRI). For this purpose, we propose to develop new image processing methods based on a combination of generic segmentation procedures (e.g. Gaussian Mixture Models, Graph Cuts, Spectral Gradients…) with classification and clustering methods to exhibit spatio-temporal signature evolutions (e.g. Spectral or Affinity Propagation Clustering, Active Appearance Models…).

Neurodevelopmental follow-up and Developmental Delay

  • Both teams are already involved in several projects with access to imaging databases of early brain development. We propose to take profit of these studies and to go beyond through new projects dealing with the follow-up of pediatric population through functional (ASL), structural (DTI) and new morphological 3D MR sequences such as double inversion recovery sequences, which seem very promising for pediatric epilepsy. The challenge is to find prospective imaging biomarkers able to correlate abnormalities in brain maturation at birth to potential cognitive deficits (i.e. language), behavioral disorders at childhood or pathological evolution of the brain (i.e. epilepsy). As before, this work will be performed with both the Neurinfo imaging platform in Rennes and the MRI platform at the Children’s Hospital in Boston. With these advanced imaging capabilities, pediatric neurologists, neuroradiologists and clinicians are now positioned to develop and evaluate effective markers, providing insight into the mechanisms that lead to Developmental Delay, and phenotypical characterization with greater accuracy and speed. This in turn will lead to more effective treatment plans and improved patient outcomes as measured by progress in reaching developmental milestones and in ameliorating secondary conditions such as seizures, poor motor control, incontinence, and impulsivity.
  • Children’s Hospital Boston is a major center of expertise and clinical treatment for children with impaired language acquisition.  The Developmental Neurolinguistics clinic sees over 150 children each year. We will recruit children aged 2 to 4 years old, presenting at the Developmental NeuroLinguistics clinic, who have not developed age appropriate language abilities at the time of presentation.  These children will be enrolled regardless of clinical diagnosis and followed with serial evaluations of language development.  We hypothesize MRI biomarkers of the structural and functional integrity of the dorsal and ventral language network at time of enrollment will predict language outcome. This will establish the neural bases of failure of language acquisition.

Language impairment in neuropediatrics

With the aim of functional exploration and structural anomaly detection, we have already integrated SPM-based tools and produced an automated pipeline. On the top of this conventional approach, we are performing region of interest analysis focusing on mean activation and laterality indexes. Within BARBANT, further work will consist in integrating in similar challenging projects on which both sides are involved, feature selection and classification procedures in order to perform more specific analysis of pediatric cohorts to provide in- and between-group comparisons integrated functional, perfusion, morphological and structural data analysis.

Ancillary Work

Because the work program is already quite dense, we have defined ancillary objectives we would like to reach within the next 3 years thanks to the leverage of this International Lab. These topics are mostly already advanced in Boston and at the same level in Rennes. We expect this associated team to help in creating links between clinicians from both side in order to address these additional applications, the related methodological work being mostly generic with the one which will be involved in the previous tasks:

  • Autism  Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Tuberous Sclerosis Complex
  • Micro- and macro-structural brain changes are apparent with MRI using new diffusion MRI models