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Untangling the Brain’s “Wires” in the Virtual Space

By July 12, 2018No Comments

The brain’s cells interact with one another in a very dense environment, some of them rearranging the exquisite network of cells when pruning old bits of neuron to form new connections and stronger lines of communication, or when repair is needed following injury. It is a dynamic process, and images in a textbook cannot convey the complexity of cell-to-cell interaction within the brain; it is a spectacle few outside of a neuroscience research lab will ever get to see. That is, until now.

Researchers in Dr. Brian MacVicar’s and Dr. Fidel Vila-Rodriguez’ labs at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health have partnered with Dr. Claudia Krebs to build on her successful Holographic Brain Project. The project brings neuroanatomy to life in virtual reality, giving students the ability to visualize the brain as a three-dimensional (3D) image, enabling them to explore, highlight, isolate, and rotate the structures within the brain. The project makes neuroanatomy approachable, and offers new perspective on the brain’s structure and spatial relationships.

Dr. Vila-Rodriguez and his team provided imaging data, giving life to the brain’s vasculature. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), a non-invasive method of measuring and mapping brain activity, Dr. Vila’s data show how blood flow through the brain affects neuronal communication.

”When I first visualized fMRI data at work in 3D at Dr. Krebs’ lab my jaw dropped,” says Dr. Vila-Rodriguez. “Seeing it was an ‘aha’ moment, reminiscent of times as child when I realized I had comprehended something new about the world.”