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The new imaging also provides neurosurgeons who deal with disorders of the electrical systems of the brain with the ability to precisely determine the location of implanted electrodes used to monitor brain electrophysiological signals; such signals help physicians find the epileptic lesion to be removed by surgery. With the new software, electrodes can be accurately and automatically mapped.

Bruce Fischl, an assistant in neuroscience at Massachusetts General Hospital, says that the idea is “interesting” but cautions that there are a number of levels of ambiguity when talking about connectivity in imaging. “Just because you live next to the Mass Pike doesn’t mean that there is an exit,” he says.

Lai’s group is continuing to fine-tune the technology, and he expects it to be in operating rooms within the next year. It will initially be used for epilepsy and brain-tumor surgery, but “its ability to show the spatial relationship between structures of interest makes it general enough to be used for anything,” says Lai.

Three-dimensional navigation plays a significant role in the work of neurosurgeons, says Sharan. “I know where I am going in 3-D space, and this [new software] is just leveraging that ability. That is why I am excited about something that should have been here 10 years ago.”

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Credit: Song Lai, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital

Tagged: Biomedicine, software, imaging, brain, mapping, MRI, tumor, fMRI, brain map

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