Navigation Links
CU researchers develop new software to advance brain image research

A University of Colorado Boulder research team has developed a new software program allowing neuroscientists to produce single brain images pulled from hundreds of individual studies, trimming weeks and even months from what can be a tedious, time-consuming research process.

The development of noninvasive neuroimaging techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, spurred a huge amount of scientific research and led to substantial advances in the understanding of the human brain and cognitive function. However, instead of having too little data, researchers are besieged with too much, according to Tal Yarkoni, a postdoctoral fellow in CU-Boulder's psychology and neuroscience department.

The new software developed by Yarkoni and his colleagues can be programmed to comb scientific literature for published articles relevant to a particular topic, and then to extract all of the brain scan images from those articles. Using a statistical process called "meta-analysis," researchers are then able to produce a consensus "brain activation image" reflecting hundreds of studies at a time.

"Because the new approach is entirely automated, it can analyze hundreds of different experimental tasks or mental states nearly instantaneously instead of requiring researchers to spend weeks or months conducting just one analysis," said Yarkoni.

Yarkoni is the lead author on a paper introducing the new approach to analyzing brain imaging data that appears in the June 26 edition of the journal Nature Methods. Russell Poldrack of the University of Texas at Austin, Thomas Nichols of the University of Warwick in England, David Van Essen of Washington University in St. Louis and Tor Wager of CU-Boulder contributed to the paper.

Brain scanning techniques such as fMRI have revolutionized scientists' understanding of the human mind by allowing researchers to peer deep into people's brains as they engage in mental activities as diverse as reciting numbers, making financial decisions or simply daydreaming. But interpreting the results of brain imaging studies is often more difficult, according to Yarkoni.

"There's often the perception that what we're doing when we scan someone's brain is literally seeing their thoughts and feelings in action, but it's actually much more complicated," Yarkoni said. "The colorful images we see are really just estimates, because each study gives us a somewhat different picture. It's only by combining the results of many different studies that we get a really clear picture of what's going on."

The ability to look at many different mental states simultaneously allows researchers to ask interesting new questions. For instance, researchers can pick out a specific brain region they're interested in and determine which mental states are most likely to produce activation in that region, he said. Or they can calculate how likely a person is to be performing a particular task given their pattern of brain activity.

In their study, the research team was able to distinguish people who were experiencing physical pain during brain scanning from people who were performing a difficult memory task or viewing emotional pictures with nearly 80 percent accuracy. The team expects performance levels to improve as their software develops, and believes their tools will improve researchers' ability to decode mental states from brain activity.

"We don't expect to be able to tell what people are thinking or feeling at a very detailed level," Yarkoni said. "But we think we'll be able to distinguish relatively broad mental states from one another. And we're hopeful that might even eventually extend to mental health disorders, so that these tools will be useful for clinical diagnosis."


Contact: Tal Yarkoni
University of Colorado at Boulder

Related biology news :

1. NC State researchers get to root of parasite genome
2. Researchers find animal with ability to survive climate change
3. Researchers find an essential gene for forming ears of corn
4. Researchers note differences between people and animals on calorie restriction
5. Researchers study acoustic communication in deep-sea fish
6. Researchers discover that growing up too fast may mean dying young in honey bees
7. Researchers study how pistachios may improve heart health
8. UI researchers find potentially toxic substance present in Chicago air
9. Researchers develop new self-training gene prediction program for fungi
10. Case Western Reserve University researchers track Chernobyl fallout
11. Childrens National researchers develop novel anti-tumor vaccine
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/19/2015)... YORK , Nov. 19, 2015  Although some ... market is dominated by a few companies, according to ... companies own 51% of the market share of the ... The World Market for Molecular Diagnostic s ... "The market is still controlled by one company ...
(Date:11/18/2015)... ALBANY, New York , November 18, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... Transparency Market Research has published a new market report ... Share, Growth, Trends, and Forecast, 2015 - 2021. According to ... bn in 2014 and is anticipated to reach US$29.1 ... 2015 to 2021. North America ...
(Date:11/17/2015)... , November 17, 2015 ... 19 novembre  2015.  --> Paris , ... --> DERMALOG, le leader de l,innovation biométrique, a ... fois passeports et empreintes sur la même surface de ... passeports et l,autre pour les empreintes digitales. Désormais, un ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... HOLLISTON, Mass. , Nov. 25, 2015 ... HART ), a biotechnology company developing bioengineered organ implants ... McGorry will present at the LD Micro "Main ... 2:30 p.m. PT. The presentation will be webcast live ... Management will also be available at the conference for ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... DIEGO , Nov. 25, 2015 Orexigen® ... management will participate in a fireside chat discussion at ... New York . The discussion is scheduled ... .  A replay will be ... Media Contact:McDavid Stilwell  , Julie NormartVP, Corporate Communications ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... , ... The United States Golf Association (USGA) today announced Dr. Bruce Clarke, ... annually since 1961, the USGA Green Section Award recognizes an individual’s distinguished service to ... Clarke, of Iselin, N.J., is an extension specialist of turfgrass pathology in the department ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... Copper ... unless it is bound to proteins, copper is also toxic to cells. With ... Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) will conduct a systematic study of copper in the ...
Breaking Biology Technology: