BY NILS MUHLERT
Many neuroimaging projects are multi-disciplinary. They often involve collaborations between physicists, engineers, computer scientists, biologists, cognitive scientists, and clinicians amongst others. Inevitably, this leads some to go well beyond their core discipline, learning and making notable advances in complementary fields. Michel Thiebaut de Schotten’s career falls firmly within this camp. With a background in Psychology, Michel went on to make substantial advances in neurobiology and neuropsychiatry, co-authoring a fundamental book on white matter anatomy (Atlas of Human Brain Connections), and papers on the anatomy of spatial neglect, attention and word reading ability, before reinterpreting and re-analysing data from historical case studies in neurology. This breadth of experience lends itself well to OHBM, a society that provides a bridge between disciplines.
Following 8 years as postdoc and research fellow in King’s College London, Michel recently crossed the channel back to France, starting the ‘Brain Connectivity and Behaviour’ group in Paris’s famous Hôpital de la Salpêtrière at the Sorbonne. Michel has also recently taken over the role of OHBM treasurer, from the previous incumbent Kevin Murphy. Here, we find out more about Michel’s scientific journey and what he hopes to achieve in this new role.
Nils Muhlert (NM): Looking back over your studies, which would you say you are most proud of, and why?
Michel Thiebaut de Schotten (MTdS): Our most recent work on the subdivision of the brain based on structural connectivity is a real source of pride. My team and I have been working hard on this method. I feel that we are making a big theoretical step forward in the way that we look at structural connectivity. We now, finally, can unify white matter organisation with the functional specialisation of the grey matter. I am really excited about the future discoveries that this new method will bring.
NM: Sounds exciting! How does this new approach approach work?
MTdS: We identified units of cortex with a specific signature of connectivity with the rest of the brain and decoded their function using the tool ‘decode’ on neurosynth. Interestingly, areas defined by their connectivity exhibit variations in extent and localisation between brains but retain a robust pattern of connectivity. Hence, these methods offer an ideal new way to study the relationship between structural and functional variability by providing more individually tailored brain models (for more info, see our recent editorial).
NM: Your published work could easily be described as ‘multi-disciplinary’ - do you see yourself as more of a cognitive scientist, neurology-researcher, historian, or something else?
MTdS: I am a neuropsychologist and I am passionate about my work. This sometimes leads me to explore and use new methods or spend long hours reading antiquated manuscripts. My motto is to “strive for a better understanding of the research of the past in order to appropriately contribute to the research of the future”.
NM: Why did you want to become involved with the OHBM executive committee?
MTdS: Mostly out of curiosity. I am a great admirer of OHBM`s work, having attended every annual meeting since 2006. As each year passes, the work of OHBM has become more and more impressive with regard to both the content of the programme as well as to the overall organisation of the meeting. Having served as a dedicated Program/Treasurer Committee Member in the International School of Clinical Neuroanatomy in the past, I wished to expand on my experience as OHBM treasurer.
NM: Tell us a bit about the logistics of being treasurer for OHBM - what are the main roles and challenges?
MTdS: As Treasurer, the core attribute of my role is to verify, monitor and validate expenses, and prepare the budget for next year’s conference.
The main challenge of the role is mobilising committee members in order to reach a consensus on each proposition. Committee members are very intelligent expert scientists, professionally trained to question everything. That in itself makes the OHBM Committee a particularly challenging crowd to convince.
NM: What would you like to achieve as OHBM treasurer?
MTdS: In my term as OHBM Treasurer, I would like to accomplish three specific goals. I would like to (1)Set up a policy for the OHBM’s reserve funds, (2) Reduce the price of the educational courses’ registration to its bare minimum, (3) Reduce the price of the conference registration for students.
Many thanks Michel!