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Western University-developed technique gives new insight on brain disorders

London, Ont. -

A new technique that flattens the wrinkles and folds in the brain's hippocampus for a 2D view could make it easier to understand brain disorders.

The hippocampus is a region of the brain often looked at for clues to understand disease progression and response to treatment for brain disorders.

“There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on in the hippocampus, it’s a real hotbed. So, there are many diseases associated with it, that start to show abnormalities there before most of the rest of the brain,” says former PhD student at Western University, Jordan DeKraker.

Some of those diseases include Alzheimer’s disease, major depressive disorder and epilepsy.

What the new technique does is use images from an MRI to digitally create a model of the hippocampus. Why that is important is because the tissue folds like a sheet, making it difficult to diagnose changes according to DeKraker.

“We’re basically doing is using a bunch of computational tools to try and unfold that structure so we can get a look at all different parts of that tissue.”

Assistant Professor at Western, Ali Khan, was one of the people overseeing DeKraker’s work

“By flattening it out, it makes it look very similar across people, so now you can find corresponding points in one person and another, so that gives us a way to compare.”

This is the culmination of DeKraker’s PhD work at Western. It has been published in the journal Trends in Neurosciences, and DeKraker believes this will open up a new level of understanding of certain brain disorders.

“We’d like to try and better diagnose and understand, perhaps, different sub-types of the disease so we can choose a treatment that’s most likely to work for that person.”

And more research and development will branch off from DeKraker’s work.

“We’re developing a web-based app that can be used to automatically perform this unfolding and to provide machine learning or artificial intelligence-based methods for quantifying how the hippocampus is actually affected in different individuals,” explains Khan. Top Stories

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