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Intelligent Machines

3-D View of the Brain

New software for the operating room.

The 3-D rendering of a brain tumor and associated brain fibers at left, made by researchers at Thomas ­Jefferson University in Philadelphia, is the product of new software that integrates data from multiple imaging technologies to provide much clearer images. The image shows a tumor (blue mass) and its position relative to brain fibers (threadlike objects) that are affected by the tumor and vital to brain function. The software lets surgeons see which fibers are engulfed by the tumor (dashed lines) and which are outside the tumor (solid lines). Colors indicate the depth of the engulfed fibers or the exterior fibers’ distance from the tumor’s surface; for example, pink and red dashed lines represent deeply engulfed fibers. Pilot studies have demonstrated the software’s usefulness in neurosurgical planning; the researchers expect that with fine-tuning, the technology could be in operating rooms within a year. The images use data from conventional magnetic reso­nance imaging (MRI), which gives details on ­anatomy; functional MRI, which provides information on neural activity; and diffusion tensor imaging, which provides images of fibers connecting different brain areas.

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