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INESC TEC tries to understand the cause for motor disorders

INESC TEC’s Centre for Research in Biomedical Engineering (C-BER) is involved in a project where the goal is to study the regions of the brain where motor dysfunctions start. As part of this project, which involves INESC TEC and the University of Munich, Germany, in March INESC TEC hosted Verena Rozanski, a doctor and researcher at that university.

With this project, called “Diffusion-based parcellation of the Globus Pallidus(GPi)”, the researchers want to understand how the nerve fibres are projected between the GPi core and the different areas of the cortex. Studying these “information highways in the brain” which originate in the cores of the brain, is extremely relevant because these are the areas to which stimulation techniques are applied to treat movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease. The team will conduct neuroimaging studies with MRI, with a particular emphasis on this type of disorder. More specifically, the goal is to parcel this region of the brain where the stimuli electrodes are implanted, and thus optimise their location to obtain better clinical results.

“We are now working with MRI data which will help us parcel that region (of the GPi). This parcellation is not only anatomical, but also made based on the connection that that region of the brain has with other regions,” the German researcher explains.

When questioned about the benefits of this partnership with INESC TEC, Verena Rozanski stated that the greatest aspect is the interdisciplinarity of the teams. “I, for example, have a medicine background, while here in Porto you work more with engineering and computer science. By joining efforts we are building a solid cooperation, and it will certainly be gratifying for doctors to see our results applied to their work,” she adds.

There are other exchanges taking place with Germany as part of this project. “We hope that this is not the last time we collaborate. We have more ideas, it’s just a matter of finding the right funds,” Verena Rozanski concludes.

This collaboration has already led to important results, such as the paper “Connectivity patterns of pallidal DBS electrodes in focal dystonia: A diffusion tensor tractography study,” published in Neuroimage in 2014.

At INESC TEC, the project is led by João Paulo Cunha, coordinator of C-BER and the group BRAIN. The Portuguese team includes the researchers Sérgio Tafula and Nádia Silva.

The INESC TEC researchers mentioned in this article are associated with the following partner institutions: FEUP and INESC Porto.

INESC TEC, March 2015

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