How Diffusion Spectral Imaging Shows the Brain's Architecture

Dr. Van Wedeen explains how DSI shows the fiber architecture of the brain and how all the 3-D axes fit together as a whole to form a "highly deformed grid."

See more of Dr. Van Wedeen's videos here.

So the diffusion spectrum imaging for the first time or, high-angular resolution diffusion imaging broadly, allows you to look at the fiber architecture of an entire brain to see how it all fits together as a single piece. In addition, it's not insignificant that you can practice this in the human brain and even in living human subjects, which means that we are obviously trying to spin this up to become a diagnostic tool. But from these images of the entire brain you can see the relationship of one thing to another. And recently, as our science paper described, we found that the inner structure of the brain is extraordinarily simple, that the brain has the 3-dimensional shape of a deformed grid-- a 3-dimensional grid in 3 axes. The most sensible way to think of it is that these axes that the pathways follow are the axes of development. So there is the top-to-bottom, left-to-right, and front-to-back, and as the brain develops this structure becomes extremely curved and, therefore, hard to recognize but fundamentally retains that shape. So overall it's sort of easy to imagine the shape of the brain at once in terms of a 3-dimensional highly deformed grid.
Posted on BrainLine March 11, 2013.

About the author: Van Wedeen. MD

Van Wedeen, MD is associate professor in Radiology at Harvard Medical School, assistant neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital, and director of Connectomics at Martinos Center, Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital.

Van Wedeen

Produced by Brian King, Vicky Youcha, and Lara Collins, BrainLine.