DT-MRI Visualization of the brain’s optical networks to understand MS Pathology

Summer 2016

Amit Akula : Computer Science

Mentor: Roland Henry

While researchers have not been able to fully characterize the pathology of multiple sclerosis (MS), conventional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) techniques  have been the “gold standard for the diagnosis and monitoring of MS” (Guglielmetti, Lassmann). Using advanced MRI techniques, such as diffusion weighted imaging, and specifically spherical deconvolution tractography to image the brain’s neural tracts, recent studies have furthered MRI’s predictive capabilities to leverage the brain’s connectivity to develop a “composite MRI-based measure of motor network integrity” that appears to “predict disability substantially better than conventional non-network based MRI measures” (Pardini). My research project would be to conduct similar analysis of the brain’s visual network: the white matter tracts underlying the parts of the brain associated with visual processing. Using data from the Human Connectome Project, I intend to develop a brain atlas of the visual pathways. I will then use this atlas to predict visual function in MS patients. By correlating my analysis of the visual network with two standard measures of visual strength, visual evoke potentials (VEP) and optic coherence tomography (OCT), I hope to use these visual pathways to better understand MS pathology (Martinez-Lapiscina).

This research has afforded me an amazing opportunity to work with amazing people. Finding the time, and money, to commute to SF to do my research is especially challenging during the school year. The SURF program and the support of the Rose Hills Foundation have allowed me to exclusively focus on my research. The program has not only increased my competitiveness for graduate school, but the program also gave me wonderful opportunities to learn more about the graduate school experience. I am deeply appreciative to this program for providing the resources and wisdom necessary for me to do an awesome research project this summer.