Human Brain In-vivo Mapping with neuroimaging (BRAINMAP)

Head: Massimo Filippi
Deputy head: Andrea Falini

Vision

Due to its exquisite sensitivity, relative noninvasiveness and major technical advances, neuroimaging has become in the past couple of decades an irreplaceable way for the in vivo assessment of the central nervous system in healthy and diseased humans.

Goals

The Research Program “Human Brain Invivo Mapping with Neuroimaging” (BRAINMAP) is aimed at joining and strengthening the decennial expertise already developed in neuroimaging at our Institute and developing new research lines in this field, through a multidisciplinary and inter-departmental approach.

Main achievements (updated 2012)

  1. Damage to strategic white matter (WM) tracts contributes to cognitive impairment in MS through a multisystem disconnection syndrome. Functional abnormalities within and between large-scale neuronal networks occur in patients with MS and are related to T2 lesion extent and severity of disability. Cognitive rehabilitation in MS is likely to enhance recruitment of brain networks subserving the trained functions. Patients with progressive MS have an over-recruitment of the cervical cord.
  2. In MS patients at the first year of interferon β or glatiramer acetate treatment, T2 lesions increase in relation with clinical disease activity, and thus it can be considered a good early predictor of long-term clinical efficacy.
  3. DT MRI is a potential sensitive marker to understand and monitor the extent of CNS damage in HIV treated patients. Epidemiology, biology, clinical presentation and MRI patterns of HIV-related PML cases were reviewed providing guidelines for management and emphasizing areas in need of better information and understanding.
  4. WM damage is more severe and has a different topographical distribution in early onset compared with late onset AD. Posterior cortical atrophy is associated with a selective damage to the ventral visual network. ALS patients experience a cortical thinning of the primary motor and extra-motor cortices. Sensorimotor cortical thickness distinguishes patients with ALS from controls and is related to a faster clinical progression. Frontal and parietal atrophy occurs in PD patients with freezing of gait reflecting their executive and perception deficits. Adding diffusivity measures to brainstem volumetry improves the diagnostic accuracy in differentiating PSP syndromes from healthy individuals.
  5. The issue of inferential vs. referential semantics has been addressed to better define the neural basis of semantic memory. In addition, the investigation of the relationship between language and motor function has been extended. Experience is able to modulate the cortical signature of object representations.
  6. Advanced EEG mapping analysis allows to localize and assess the functional role of specific human brain circuits in healthy and in pathological conditions, such as dementia and ALS.
  7. In bipolar disorder, the GSK3-β inhibition and lithium are likely to counteract the detrimental influences on WM structure. Reduced fractional anisotropy in drug-treated patients with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), likely reflects the pathophysiological underpinnings of OCD. Exposure to adverse childhood experiences increases, and ongoing drug treatment decreases, caudate volume in OCD.
  8. An FDG PET template has been validated for improving detection at a single-subject level of functional abnormalities in neurodegenerative diseases. Using PET, cholinergic activity has been assessed in AD and MCI patients for diagnosis and prognosis purposes.