Nav: Home

Artificial intelligence for very young brains

March 26, 2020

Canadian scientists have developed an innovative new technique that uses artificial intelligence to better define the different sections of the brain in newborns during a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam.

The results of this study -- a collaboration between researchers at Montreal's CHU Sainte-Justine children's hospital and the ÉTS engineering school -- are published today in Frontiers in Neuroscience.

"This is one of the first times that artificial intelligence has been used to better define the different parts of a newborn's brain on an MRI: namely the grey matter, white matter and cerebrospinal fluid," said Dr. Gregory A. Lodygensky, a neonatologist at CHU Sainte-Justine and professor at Université de Montréal.

"Until today, the tools available were complex, often intermingled and difficult to access," he added.

In collaboration with Professor Jose Dolz, an expert in medical image analysis and machine learning at ÉTS, the researchers were able to adapt the tools to the specificities of the neonatal setting and then validate them.

This new technique allows babies' brains to be examined quickly, accurately and reliably. Scientists see it as a major asset for supporting research that not only addresses brain development in neonatal care, but also the effectiveness of neuroprotective strategies.

In evaluating a range of tools available in artificial intelligence, CHU Sainte-Justine researchers found that these tools had limitations, particularly with respect to pediatric research. Today's neuroimaging analysis programs are primarily designed to work on "adult" MRIs. The cerebral immaturity of newborns, with an inversion of the contrasts between grey matter and white matter, complicates such analyses.

Inspired by Dolz's most recent work, the researchers proposed an artificial neural network that learns how to efficiently combine information from several MRI sequences. This methodology made it possible to better define the different parts of the brain in the newborn automatically and to establish a new benchmark for this problem.

"We've decided not only to share the results of our study on open source, but also the computer code, so that brain researchers everywhere can take advantage of it, all of which benefits patients," said Dolz.

CHU Sainte-Justine is one of the most important players in the Canadian Neonatal Brain Platform and also has one of the largest neonatal units in Canada specializing in neurodevelopment. As part of the platform, research teams are implementing projects like this one with the aim of improving the long-term health of those newborns who are most vulnerable to brain injury.

"In studies to assess the positive and negative impact of different therapies on the maturation of babies' brains, we need to have the ability to quantify brain structures with certainty and reliability," Lodygensky said. "By offering the scientific community the fruits of all our discoveries, we are helping them, while generating an extraordinary benefit for at-risk newborns."

He added: "We now want to democratize this tool so that it becomes the benchmark for the study of brain structure in newborns around the world. To this end, we are continuing to work on its generalizability -- that is, its use on MRI data acquired in different hospitals."
-end-
About this study

"Using deep convolutional neural networks for neonatal brain image segmentation" was published March 26, 2020 in Frontiers in Neuroscience. The first author is Yang Ding, PhD, under the direction of Gregory A. Lodygensky. The primary authors are Gregory A. Lodygensky, MD, Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Université de Montréal and Clinician-Researcher at CHU Sainte-Justine, and Jose Dolz, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Software Engineering and Information Technology at the École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS). The study was supported by the Brain Canada Foundation.

About the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center

The CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center is a leading mother-child research institution affiliated with Université de Montréal. It brings together more than 210 research investigators, including over 110 clinician-scientists, as well as 450 graduate and postgraduate students focused on finding innovative prevention means, faster and less invasive treatments, as well as personalized approaches to medicine. The Center is part of CHU Sainte-Justine, which is the largest mother-child center in Canada. For more information, go to
About ÉTS

ÉTS is one of the ten constituents of the University of Québec network. It trains engineers and researchers recognized for their practical and innovative approach, the development of new technologies and their ability to transfer their knowledge to private enterprise. CSRankings places ÉTS in the vanguard of the artificial vision branch of artificial intelligence: it ranks first in Québec and sixth in Canada for scientific publications in this domain. For more information, visit:

University of Montreal

Related Brain Articles:

Human brain size gene triggers bigger brain in monkeys
Dresden and Japanese researchers show that a human-specific gene causes a larger neocortex in the common marmoset, a non-human primate.
Unique insight into development of the human brain: Model of the early embryonic brain
Stem cell researchers from the University of Copenhagen have designed a model of an early embryonic brain.
An optical brain-to-brain interface supports information exchange for locomotion control
Chinese researchers established an optical BtBI that supports rapid information transmission for precise locomotion control, thus providing a proof-of-principle demonstration of fast BtBI for real-time behavioral control.
Transplanting human nerve cells into a mouse brain reveals how they wire into brain circuits
A team of researchers led by Pierre Vanderhaeghen and Vincent Bonin (VIB-KU Leuven, Université libre de Bruxelles and NERF) showed how human nerve cells can develop at their own pace, and form highly precise connections with the surrounding mouse brain cells.
Brain scans reveal how the human brain compensates when one hemisphere is removed
Researchers studying six adults who had one of their brain hemispheres removed during childhood to reduce epileptic seizures found that the remaining half of the brain formed unusually strong connections between different functional brain networks, which potentially help the body to function as if the brain were intact.
Alcohol byproduct contributes to brain chemistry changes in specific brain regions
Study of mouse models provides clear implications for new targets to treat alcohol use disorder and fetal alcohol syndrome.
Scientists predict the areas of the brain to stimulate transitions between different brain states
Using a computer model of the brain, Gustavo Deco, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition, and Josephine Cruzat, a member of his team, together with a group of international collaborators, have developed an innovative method published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Sept.
BRAIN Initiative tool may transform how scientists study brain structure and function
Researchers have developed a high-tech support system that can keep a large mammalian brain from rapidly decomposing in the hours after death, enabling study of certain molecular and cellular functions.
Wiring diagram of the brain provides a clearer picture of brain scan data
In a study published today in the journal BRAIN, neuroscientists led by Michael D.
Blue Brain Project releases first-ever digital 3D brain cell atlas
The Blue Brain Cell Atlas is like ''going from hand-drawn maps to Google Earth'' -- providing previously unavailable information on major cell types, numbers and positions in all 737 brain regions.
More Brain News and Brain Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Debbie Millman: Designing Our Lives
From prehistoric cave art to today's social media feeds, to design is to be human. This hour, designer Debbie Millman guides us through a world made and remade–and helps us design our own paths.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#574 State of the Heart
This week we focus on heart disease, heart failure, what blood pressure is and why it's bad when it's high. Host Rachelle Saunders talks with physician, clinical researcher, and writer Haider Warraich about his book "State of the Heart: Exploring the History, Science, and Future of Cardiac Disease" and the ails of our hearts.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Insomnia Line
Coronasomnia is a not-so-surprising side-effect of the global pandemic. More and more of us are having trouble falling asleep. We wanted to find a way to get inside that nighttime world, to see why people are awake and what they are thinking about. So what'd Radiolab decide to do?  Open up the phone lines and talk to you. We created an insomnia hotline and on this week's experimental episode, we stayed up all night, taking hundreds of calls, spilling secrets, and at long last, watching the sunrise peek through.   This episode was produced by Lulu Miller with Rachael Cusick, Tracie Hunte, Tobin Low, Sarah Qari, Molly Webster, Pat Walters, Shima Oliaee, and Jonny Moens. Want more Radiolab in your life? Sign up for our newsletter! We share our latest favorites: articles, tv shows, funny Youtube videos, chocolate chip cookie recipes, and more. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.