Nav: Home

Modeling the brain with 'Lego bricks'

June 15, 2017

Researchers from the University of Luxembourg, in cooperation with the University of Strasbourg, have developed a computational method that could be used to guide surgeons during brain surgery.

Surgeons often operate in the dark. They have a limited view of the surface of the organ, and can typically not see what lies hidden inside. Quality images can routinely be taken prior to the surgery, but as soon as the operation begins, the position of the surgeon's target and risky areas he must avoid, continuously change. This forces practitioners to rely on their experience when navigating surgical instruments to, for example, remove a tumor without damaging healthy tissue or cutting through important blood supplies.

Stéphane Bordas, Professor in Computational Mechanics at the Faculty of Science, Technology and Communication of the University of Luxembourg, and his team have developed methods to train surgeons, help them rehearse for such complex operations and guide them during surgery. To do this, the team develops mathematical models and numerical algorithms to predict the deformation of the organ during surgery and provide information on the current position of target and vulnerable areas. With such tools, the practioner could virtually rehearse a particular operation to anticipate potential complications.

As the brain is a composite material, made up of grey matter, white matter and fluids, the researchers use data from medical imaging, such as MRI to decompose the brain into subvolumes, similar to lego blocks. The colour of each lego block depends on which material it represents: white, grey or fluid. This colour-coded "digital lego brain" consists of thousands of these interacting and deforming blocks which are used to compute the deformation of the organ under the action of the surgeon. The more blocks the researchers use to model the brain, the more accurate is the simulation. However, it becomes slower, as it requires more computing power. For the user, it is therefore important to find the right balance between accuracy and speed when he decides how many blocks to use.

The crucial aspect of Prof Bordas' work is that it allows, for the first time, to control both the accuracy and the computational time of the simulations. "We developed a method that can save time and money to the user by telling them the minimum size these lego blocks should have to guarantee a given accuracy level. For instance, we can say with certainty: if you can accept a ten per cent error range then your lego blocks should be maximum 1mm, if you are ok with twenty percent you could use 5mm elements," he explains. "The method has two advantages: You have an estimation of the quality and you can focus the computational effort only on areas where it is needed, thus saving precious computational time."

Over time, the researchers' goal is to provide surgeons with a solution that can be used during operations, constantly updating the simulation model in real time with data from the patient. But, according to Prof Bordas, it will take a while before this is realized. "We still need to develop robust methods to estimate the mechanical behavior of each lego block representing the brain. We also must develop a user-friendly platform that surgeons can test and tell us if our tool is helpful," he said.

The researchers published their findings in IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering
-end-


University of Luxembourg

Related Brain Articles:

Study describes changes to structural brain networks after radiotherapy for brain tumors
Researchers compared the thickness of brain cortex in patients with brain tumors before and after radiation therapy was applied and found significant dose-dependent changes in the structural properties of cortical neural networks, at both the local and global level.
Blue Brain team discovers a multi-dimensional universe in brain networks
Using a sophisticated type of mathematics in a way that it has never been used before in neuroscience, a team from the Blue Brain Project has uncovered a universe of multi-dimensional geometrical structures and spaces within the networks of the brain.
New brain mapping tool produces higher resolution data during brain surgery
Researchers have developed a new device to map the brain during surgery and distinguish between healthy and diseased tissues.
Newborn baby brain scans will help scientists track brain development
Scientists have today published ground-breaking scans of newborn babies' brains which researchers from all over the world can download and use to study how the human brain develops.
New test may quickly identify mild traumatic brain injury with underlying brain damage
A new test using peripheral vision reaction time could lead to earlier diagnosis and more effective treatment of mild traumatic brain injury, often referred to as a concussion.
This is your brain on God: Spiritual experiences activate brain reward circuits
Religious and spiritual experiences activate the brain reward circuits in much the same way as love, sex, gambling, drugs and music, report researchers at the University of Utah School of Medicine.
Brain scientists at TU Dresden examine brain networks during short-term task learning
'Practice makes perfect' is a common saying. We all have experienced that the initially effortful implementation of novel tasks is becoming rapidly easier and more fluent after only a few repetitions.
Balancing time & space in the brain: New model holds promise for predicting brain dynamics
A team of scientists has extended the balanced network model to provide deep and testable predictions linking brain circuits to brain activity.
New view of brain development: Striking differences between adult and newborn mouse brain
Spikes in neuronal activity in young mice do not spur corresponding boosts in blood flow -- a discovery that stands in stark contrast to the adult mouse brain.
Map of teenage brain provides evidence of link between antisocial behavior and brain development
The brains of teenagers with serious antisocial behavior problems differ significantly in structure to those of their peers, providing the clearest evidence to date that their behavior stems from changes in brain development in early life, according to new research led by the University of Cambridge and the University of Southampton, in collaboration with the University of Rome Tor Vergata in Italy.

Related Brain Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Jumpstarting Creativity
Our greatest breakthroughs and triumphs have one thing in common: creativity. But how do you ignite it? And how do you rekindle it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on jumpstarting creativity. Guests include economist Tim Harford, producer Helen Marriage, artificial intelligence researcher Steve Engels, and behavioral scientist Marily Oppezzo.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#524 The Human Network
What does a network of humans look like and how does it work? How does information spread? How do decisions and opinions spread? What gets distorted as it moves through the network and why? This week we dig into the ins and outs of human networks with Matthew Jackson, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and author of the book "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours".