BY GUEST AUTHOR ERIKA RAVEN
This post originally appeared on the ISMRM blog and in the MRM Highlights magazine.
Republished (and slightly modified) with permission.
Karla Miller is a professor of biomedical engineering at the Oxford Center for Functional MRI of the Brain (FMRIB, pronounced “fim-rib” for short). She directs the FMRIB Neuroscience Physics group, which specializes in many projects, from pulse sequence development to biophysical tissue modeling. More recently, she’s been a key figure of the UK Biobank, a mega-sized data initiative charged with imaging 100,000 adults by 2022. Karla is also a plenary speaker at the upcoming OHBM meeting in Vancouver, education chair of this year’s ISMRM meeting in Honolulu, and is poised to chair the entire ISMRM program for the 2018 meeting in Paris. In our interview, Karla makes connections between the many themes in her life, which ultimately are resolved by finding the right balance.
Erika Raven (ER): You’re one of the few people that feel comfortable straddling the line between ISMRM and OHBM. Do you see a synergy between these two societies, or would you rather they keep running on parallel tracks?
Karla MIller (KM): I think it’s incredibly important that people who are developing MRI techniques don’t do so in a vacuum. I’ve benefited tremendously from being at the FMRIB center. Although I’m in a physics group, I rub elbows with people on the analysis and neuroscience side. I think it’s important for people who are developing these sequences to understand how neuroscientists will want to use them. Cross society outreach is something I am keen to do as part of becoming chair of the ISMRM’s annual meeting program committee (AMPC) in about 6 months.
ER: How did you first become involved with ISMRM and what led you to become this year’s education chair?
KM: I first attended the ISMRM in Philadelphia (1999) and I have attended every ISMRM since. One of the first official roles I held was to serve on the AMPC. The AMPC is the hardest working, but also the most exciting, committee to be a part of. Now for this year’s ISMRM, I am coordinating the education for Hawaii, and then at the Paris meeting in 2018 I’ll be chairing the entire program. I’m incredibly grateful to Dan Sodickson for appointing me - although as the huge task ahead really hits me, I might save my thanks until the meeting is a wrap!
ER: You’ve given many educational seminars. What is it about MRI education that you like?
KM: I absolutely love teaching. Beyond it being immensely satisfying to help people grasp difficult concepts, I think it's a good experience for the lecturer to think hard about the material. It’s an interesting challenge - can I do a better job of teaching this to other people than it was taught to me?
ER: Your work is multifaceted - can you explain your primary research themes and how those came to be?
KM: My training was very much in pulse sequences and image reconstruction. And so I still have a big chunk of my group working in that area. In the past few years, I’ve become interested in the idea that we can improve our acquisitions and reconstruction by taking a lead from how people analyze their data. We tend to think of this as a linear process – you try to get the best data you can and then you analyze it. But there are tricks that we can learn based on how people analyze the data that would enable us to improve the acquisition and reconstruction itself.
ER: I would imagine he would be useful! You also study biophysical modeling and ex vivo imaging of tissue microstructure. Can you tell us about that?
KM: We’re acquiring microscopy data so we can close the loop between what is the biophysical model, what is the MRI data, and what is the actual measurable microstructure. The key aspect of our experiments are that we have all three things –MRI and microscopy in the same tissue samples, and a proposed model linking them. By actually having a measurement of the underlying microstructure, it guarantees thatis if you’ve got your model wrong, you are the absolute first person who is going to know. Not just, “can I take a biophysical model and show that it kind of matches the data”, but “can I actually take something that I know reflects the underlying microstructure, make a prediction through some biophysical model, then say - YES - that is exactly the MRI signal that I measured”. And it’s a really hard thing to do.
ER: That was like a mission statement!
KM: Putting this process to work, we’ve been looking at diffusion based estimates of fiber dispersion. We use microscopy techniques to essentially ask what aspects of the microstructure you need to incorporate to accurately predict what the diffusion signal looks like. It’s a project that has a true palpable output, and interestingly it’s created a signature that we hadn’t expected to find. We’ve now demonstrated that this particular effect also exists in the Biobank data - so it’s a real effect, which is potentially a signature of something biologically interesting. More importantly, we’ve managed to have a first go at what it might look like to actually close the loop of biophysical modeling, microscopy, and MRI acquisition.
ER: I really like that turn of phrase, closing the loop. And since you mentioned the UK Biobank, I’ve given myself permission to bombard you with Biobank questions! To start, when did you first become involved?
KM: What I’m actually doing right now as you’re asking me this question is looking in my emails to see when I had my first Biobank email logged. 2008! Email from Paul Mathews, basically asking if we would be interested in getting involved in the Biobank. It’s quite a project – scanning 100,000 subjects. And although there is quite a long author list on the paper that we published this year, that doesn’t even begin to cover the number of academics involved, let alone the enormous staff that is entirely dedicated to the project. As one colleague said – its behemoth. In a good way.
ER: What do you think will change from having 10,000 scans to 100,000 scans?
KM: One of the most exciting aspects of Biobank is that it’s an entirely prospective study: it has no particular disease focus, but is playing the numbers. Most of the participants in this huge cohort have yet to show symptoms of major disease, but we’ll be able to follow their health records as that changes. So, for example, we expect 2000 new diagnoses of Alzheimer’s and 50 new diagnoses of ALS over the next five years from participants who were pre-symptomatic at the time of imaging. The value in Alzheimer’s is obvious, but for rare diseases like ALS, that is a needle in a haystack. You just can’t find those subjects otherwise. It certainly might provide you with markers for tracking response to therapy or disease progression.
ER: It sounds like the translational aspect of this research might become even more important now, such as borrowing techniques from other fields that have already been established and validated for big data sets.
KM: It’s partly techniques and it’s partly culture. The same thing with open science – I know it’s the right thing to do, but there is part of me that thinks, “Ahh!, it’s going to be yet another thing I have to adhere to”. But once we have a culture of doing it, everybody looks back and says, “What were we thinking?”
ER: A more general question, what brought you to the academic life? Did you have any major influences that led you down this path?
KM: I got very interested in the brain when I was a kid. My mother had to have pretty drastic brain surgery when I was about 12 or 13. It really struck me - the idea that it might fundamentally change who she was. When I went to university, I started out as a psychology major. I was taking a cognitive psychology class in maybe 1995 when I saw functional MRI in a textbook - totally state-of-the-art . I was so impressed with what it had to offer compared to current methods for studying cognition. I also thought maybe the way I could have an impact was to develop the technology and move towards the engineering side. And so it’s kind of nice for me now that I’ve done the engineering side in anger for about 10 years, and I’m able to shift towards getting back to neuroscience. And for me that’s incredibly rewarding.
ER: It’s like you’re closing your own personal loop.
KM: There’s a theme there, isn’t there?
ER: Now for some words of wisdom. What things did you learn along the way that you feel would be important for people who are just starting out?
KM: I have to be profound on short notice! Well… Going into science with a great deal of passion, and a great love of what you’re doing is absolutely critical. Particularly if you want to stay in academia, because let’s face it - academia is a tough world to get by in. One of the things I did sort of instinctively early on was to look towards people who were a year or two ahead of me, doing the kind of science I wanted to do. If I have to name names – Brian Hargreaves and Bill Overall. They were my role models. I tried to see what it was that they were doing at my stage to get where they were. That sounds simplistic, but honestly, that was what I did. And it’s good advice.
ER: It has come up repeatedly that you frequently go outside your comfort zone. That’s sometimes a scary thing to do – what drives you to change?
KM: You know how I would sum this up… For me - and I know this is not true for everyone - being an expert is boring. To some degree, the fact that I’m the one “blah blah’ing” in this interview the whole time, from my perspective, it’s flattering but not stimulating. It would be far more fascinating for me to be asking you about what you’re doing and learning about what you’re doing. Being an expert is, for me, it’s the way you earn the opportunity to be an inexpert - that is the fun bit. That said, I wouldn’t encourage people to just jump from one thing to the next willy nilly, because you’ll never become an expert in anything, and that’s also not good. You have nothing then to leverage. So you have some safe stuff, and some risky stuff, and you’re hopefully pushing your personal envelope the whole time. It’s kind of about finding the right balance.
SHRUTI GOPAL VIJ
COBIDAS: OHBM Committee on Best Practice in Data Analysis and Sharing
Neuroimaging researchers study both the structural and functional organization of the brain in health as well as a variety of neuropsychological conditions. Extensive exploration has been conducted over the past few decades using novel experimental and analysis techniques. However, recent evaluations of these techniques have highlighted concerns that published scientific results are less reliable or reproducible primarily due to the lack of transparency in research practices. To address the need for outlining principles of scientific research that will increase transparency and reproducibility in human neuroimaging, the Organization for Human Brain Mapping created the Committee on Best Practices in Data Analysis and Sharing (COBIDAS).
COBIDAS has initiated efforts in distilling best practices for open science in human neuroimaging and has compiled suggestions for specific research practices to support open data and open methodology. These suggestions were composed in a report that was drafted and ratified using community collaboration. While the report itself provides a detailed description of best practices as well as approaches to avoid, a commentary that reviewed the impact of COBIDAS and the challenges ahead was published in February 2017.
The commentary underlines the importance of reproducibility and highlights the different aspects of replicating a study including generalizability over methods, materials and results as shown in Figure 1. One practice that was universally recommended is the transparent and complete reporting of all facets of a study, allowing the critical reader to evaluate the work and fully understand its strengths and limitations. Additionally, thorough reporting will equip the reader/other researchers with a detailed knowledge of how to fully replicate the study.
COBIDAS MRI report presents reporting checklists in Appendix D that researchers can follow while preparing manuscripts. These checklists are highly comprehensive and run the gamut of stages a human neuroimaging study passes through. The report also pinpoints specific bad practices, especially in statistical modeling and inference (Pages 11 & 12), and provides concrete recommendations for avoiding them. COBIDAS also suggest that researchers at all levels be mindful of these considerations while conducting individual studies and compiling manuscripts.
Another strong recommendation from COBIDAS is data sharing as highlighted in section 7 (Pages 19-24). While sharing of results was strongly agreed upon by the imaging community and COBIDAS, some concerns were articulated by the community. The main concerns of the neuroimaging community outside of COBIDAS included data ownership, maintaining autonomy over results, concern of uncovering errors in analysis, cost of data sharing, and protection of subject privacy. COBIDAS posits that there are ways to overcome each of these concerns by not only being personally open to the fallible nature of individual research and welcoming collaborations initiated by data sharing, but also by emphasizing the role of the organization and the lab in making these practices widespread. COBIDAS also suggests that a culture of constructive criticism needs to be imbued in the community to allow researchers to work on reproducibility studies. They credit some studies such as Waskom et al, Whitaker et al and Pernet et al as well as the Montreal Neurological Institute that have become the flag bearers of open science by sharing their research data and analysis scripts.
Such recommendations and practices are leading to the development of new data sharing methods and open science tools for neuroimaging. Some of the identified tools for data sharing at various experimental stages include the Brain Imaging Data Structure (BIDS); the CBRAIN web-based analysis service; the COINS service; the LONI pipeline; the Neurovault repository; and the FCP/INDI and ADNI data sharing repositories. The COBIDAS recommends using the many resources available to share data, analysis scripts, and well-written code, along with unthresholded result maps to allow precise meta-analysis and follow up studies.
Finally, the COBIDAS acknowledges that while many of the practices suggested and recommended require individuals to change the way they approach implementation and reporting of a research study, advancement of these open science initiatives will only bear fruit by institutional support and direction. They posit that universities and research centers, as well as the journals themselves, should require data and code sharing. Foundations and grant agencies should also recognize and fund the explicit costs of data sharing. However, none of these will be able to single-handedly bring about the radical change that open science warrants. COBIDAS seeks a coordinated effort from individual researchers, research centers,universities,grant agencies, and it also invites professional organizations to accelerate the drive towards open science via extensive education and outreach.
What does this mean for you and me as human brain mappers? We need to be more transparent in what we do. Not just because of the implications this has on clinical applications, but to make human brain mapping a more reliable field. Small changes in our approach to science such as documenting all the analytical methods applied while working through the projects and sharing this document on our personal sites or as supplementary material to manuscripts is a small initiative we can all take. Another simple task would be to share code written for projects on code sharing platforms such as github. At the level of the PI’s, making it a lab requirement to share this information with all the lab members including de-identified participant information and maintaining documentation for all projects: ongoing and completed would be speed up the process. This also makes it easy to follow up on projects once postdocs and graduate students have moved on.
As they say- “Little drops of water make the mighty ocean”, if we all commit to do our part, we can make open science a reality and very soon.
BY NILS MUHLERT
Every year OHBM receives thousands of abstracts, each a snapshot of the intensive work of individuals or teams of scientists. Contained within this bumper crop of science are telling replication studies, novel experimental designs, methodological advances and fresh insight into the workings of the human brain. This harvest, whilst welcome, necessitates difficult decisions about which prize specimens to highlight as talks, and which to promote through posters.
For those of us yet to work on program committees this process of selection can seem opaque - we can perhaps predict the established trends and exciting developments from year to year, but how do committees decide which emerging fields will pique the interests of the majority of OHBM attendees? Here we find out the decisions that were made in deciding on the OHBM 2017 program, through discussion with the Program Chair and Stanford Neurologist, Mike Greicius.
Nils Muhlert (NM): First, can you tell us about your career path into Neurology and Neuroimaging?
Mike Greicius (MG): I was a French major as an undergraduate but was able to get my pre-med classes done at the same time. I went to Columbia for medical school but was allowed to defer my matriculation for 1 year so that I could "teach English" in Prague and Paris, which, in fact, I sort of did.
Taking a year off allowed me to hit medical school refreshed. It was as a second-year medical student at Columbia that I had my epiphany about neuroscience. I was in a lecture on aphasia and the professor, Richard Mayeux (now the chair of Neurology at Columbia), had a videotape showing a conversation with one of his Wernicke's aphasia patients. I was thunderstruck and knew, from that point, that I wanted to be a behavioral neurologist. In my head I summed it up as something like "why study the kidney or the liver when you can study the one organ that talks back to you?".
I did my one-year of internal medicine at Columbia and then residency training in Neurology at Harvard, which is a fondly remembered blur. Fondly, mainly because it is blurry. At the time I was rather zombie-like, overworked, underpaid, etc. Those were three tough but formative years. In 2000, on finishing my residency I came to Stanford for an fMRI fellowship (with Allan Reiss and Vinod Menon) which I combined with a behavioral neurology fellowship (done at UCSF with Bruce Miller). The sun came out and everything changed. I was delighted to learn that my wife still loved me and that I could now spend time awake with my then 2-year old son.
My big resting-state epiphany actually happened at my very first conference, which happened to be OHBM 2001 in Brighton. That was my first taste of resting-state fMRI. The Biswal paper had been published in 1995 but I had had no exposure to imaging research in residency. I recall sitting in my hotel's pub sponging insights from Dietmar Cordes, whose group at Madison was doing a lot of the early fundamental methods work in resting-state fMRI. I was really blown away by the power of this approach and collared Vinod so that we could visit some of the posters together. When we got back to Stanford that summer we started thinking about how to adapt this approach to cognitive and clinical neuroscience questions.
NM: And more recently you started combining resting state fMRI with direct stimulation of the anterior cingulate cortex. Can you tell us a bit about how this work came about and the effects that this stimulation produced?
MG: The study stimulating the anterior cingulate cortex was one of my all-time favorites. Josef Parvizi is a friend and colleague of mine here at Stanford and he essentially created and now runs our research electrocorticography program. As a quick background, some patients with intractable epilepsy that does not respond to 2 or 3 anti-seizure medications may be candidates for surgical resection of small brain lesions that are the cause of their epilepsy. Often, such resections are essentially curative.
As part of the assessment, patients come into the hospital for surgery to have electrodes placed on the surface of the brain and/or in deeper parts of the brain (like the hippocampus) using depth electrodes. Patients typically spend many days in the hospital as their seizure events are carefully recorded in the hopes of localizing a single focus from which all seizures begin.
At Stanford, and many other centers, part of the clinical protocol is to stimulate each electrode in turn to see if stimulation triggers any aura-like symptoms in the patient or causes any suspicious activity on the recordings. For Dr. Parvizi’s cases, we started obtaining pre-operative resting-state fMRI scans so we could determine which electrodes were in which brain networks. Electrode placement is done strictly based on the clinical history and prior data (like EEGs and MRI scans) in an effort to cover suspicious candidate regions.
In these two cases we happened to have electrodes in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex in the heart of the "salience" network. I'd done some prior work on this network (led by Bill Seeley, the salience network guru [read the OHBM interview with Bill here - NM]) and had settled on the idea that the salience network is involved by any stimulus (internal or external) that alters the sympathetic nervous system. So high-demand cognitive tasks, emotional tasks, painful stimuli will all activate this network (which is why previous micro-literatures have tended to call it their own: the pain network, the cognitive control network, etc.). This was the first time we'd been able to get first-person reports from subjects whose salience network was stimulated. Both subjects describe a feeling of approaching a challenging situation and, in so many words, having to marshal the resources to prevail. I think this is what the salience network does. It both recognizes the challenge and also allocates resources (increased cognitive focus, increased heart-rate and blood pressure, dilated pupils to maximize visual input, etc) to overcome the challenge.
I love the line in the video of patient 1 where he is describing this strange set of feelings and notes that his heart feels like it's beating faster and he asks Dr. Parvizi if we are recording his heart rate. We were and it did increase some. I just loved how invested he was in the whole procedure. I felt like we should have made him a co-author. In any case, it really points to the invaluable role of human subjects in neuroscience research.
NM: Turning to your work in Alzheimer’s disease - you recently used PET imaging to demonstrate that amyloid deposition in early Alzheimer’s rarely occurs in the same regions as hypometabolism. Was this lack of co-occurrence predicted by prior theories of Alzheimer’s - if not, what implications might it have?
MG: The Alzheimer's field is slavishly devoted to amyloid plaques. Our paper in Brain showing the general lack of correlation between regions with high amyloid plaque deposition and those with low glucose metabolism was an effort to free people of their reflexive tendency to associate amyloid plaques with local neural dysfunction. Good old-fashioned clinicopathologic studies have repeatedly made the case that the location of amyloid plaques at autopsy does not correlate well with brain regions that were affected in life (based on functional anatomy). These same studies have made a strong case that tau pathology (neurofibrillary tangles) is the better regional correlate of neuronal dysfunction. Humans are visual beings, however, and the amyloid PET imaging revolution eclipsed some of these old studies.
To be clear, amyloid PET imaging is an unbelievable research and clinical tool and constitutes one of the major advances in Alzheimer's disease research in the last 30 years. In addition, there is no getting around the critical, probably primary, role of amyloid in Alzheimer's pathogenesis. However, the specific species of amyloid (plaques versus smaller oligomeric aggregates of the peptide) that drives the pathology remains in question. Our study (like the numerous clinicopathologic studies that preceded it) makes the case that the relevant neurotoxic species of amyloid is probably not the plaques.
NM: Which figures in your career have inspired you?
MG: Human figures? Manuscript figures? Probably not financial figures.
Human figures include Richard Mayeux and Bruce Miller (as mentioned above). Allan Reiss was a great mentor and in particular helped me learn how, as a PI, to let a trainee run with something that they are passionate about even if it is a good ways off the topic they have been assigned. Vinod Menon was also a great mentor and really helped me dive into resting-state fMRI. I also get inspired by peers. Bill Seeley as mentioned, Mike Fox, Catie Chang, Steve Smith, Heidi Johansen-Berg, Vesa Kiviniemi, and Christian Beckmann among many others have all helped my thoughts on brain connectivity and plasticity evolve.
Then, and this is not false modesty, I have benefitted considerably from several trainees. Andre Altmann and Jonas Richiardi really helped me shift gears from an imaging lab to an imaging genetics lab and lately, at times, to a straight genetics lab (with additional trickle-up education coming from Valerio Napolioni, a genetics postdoc in my lab currently).
Manuscript figures: Figure 2 (below) is my favorite, mainly because it features my wife's cingulum and descending cingulum bundles which I find incredibly beautiful.
NM: What led to you getting involved in the OHBM Council?
MG: I've been to OHBM every year since 2001. I love the community, I love the science, and I love the cities we get to visit. The other conferences I go to (and which I will not name) tend to be a bit stuffier; people wear ties and occasionally (and unironically) bow-ties. At some point I was encouraged to put my name on the slate as a candidate for Council. I was roundly pummeled in my first attempt but with some salience-stimulation and pride-swallowing was encouraged to run a second time where my perseverance was rewarded with another sound beating. In my third round I was narrowly elected to this august assembly.
NM: What challenges are there in putting together the program for OHBM?
MG: Serving on the Program Committee is a serious undertaking. We end up doing a lot of work in a short period of time. We have a few weeks to review all abstract evaluations (about 2500), educational course proposals (20 or so), and symposia proposals (more than 40). The main program building takes place each February over 2 days in a fun but somewhat chaotic in-person meeting where people make the case for (or against) the selection of education courses, symposia, and specific abstracts for oral presentations. We are also responsible for getting the Talairach speaker and keynote speakers selected and lined up (but this is usually wrapped up by September). The ideal program is challenging to build because numerous variables need to be considered including novelty, rigor, speaker diversity, and topic diversity among others. The make-up of the program committee needs to reflect these challenges and that can be challenging as well (but I assure you we are working on it and making some measurable progress).
NM: Last, what do you see as the emerging research trends in your field? (and can you give our readers a hint as to what this year's main themes for OHBM might be?)
MG: In my field, Alzheimer's disease, the biggest trend is molecular imaging (amyloid but also tau PET with some increasing enthusiasm for PET that can measure activated microglia as well). This work tends to be quite clinical and so is not well-represented at OHBM currently (something I'd like to change in my remaining year on the program committee but it's a tall order). In terms of brain networks, I am excited about ongoing efforts to bridge the gap between cell-level molecular pathways and systems-level distributed networks. Network plasticity (following behavioral or pharmacologic interventions) is also an area I find compelling. I'm happy to report that these themes will both be well-represented at OHBM 2017 in Vancouver.
NM: Many thanks for your insight!
BY THE OHBM STUDENT AND POSTDOC SPECIAL INTEREST GROUP
OHBM is open to brain mappers of all ages and career stages, and the students and postdocs are a vital part of the society. Despite strong representation by PIs, there remains a need for trainees to have their own platform where they could discuss and disseminate information specifically relevant to them, such as job opportunities, funding, scholarships, and awards. The OHBM Student and Postdoc Special Interest Group (SIG) was set up to achieve these aims, while also creating the opportunity to interact in-person during the famous Monday Night Social at the annual OHBM meeting.
In 2017, however, there is more to the SIG’s efforts than the above mentioned activities. The SIG has a new initiative on mentorship to help prepare trainees to transition to early-career researchers; that includes a symposium and the launch of an online international mentoring forum. The symposium is slated to include a panel discussion, in addition to talks by academics that will help provide career direction to human brain mapping postdocs and students. The new online mentoring forum will pair students, postdocs, and researchers in online mentoring relationships that cross the globe; these mentoring pairs will have the opportunity to meet in person during the annual meeting. Together, these initiatives offer information about possible career paths, and organize information seekers and givers into a cohesive unit. Such information will breed confidence in early-career researchers and help them become the leaders of future research initiatives. To do all this and more, we have put together a team of excellent students and postdocs to lead the SIG. These committee members come from varied backgrounds in their research, and are representative of the diversity of our community at-large.
The chair of the committee, AmanPreet Badhwar, is committed to scientific diversity, open science, and public outreach; she has also organized many events promoting career development and fostering dialogue between neuroscience and art. The chair-elect, Michele Veldsman, has been a passionate advocate of mentorship for early career researchers through her many initiatives in postdoctoral associations and college committees. Kirstie Whitaker, the SIG's secretary, ardently believes in fair representation of early career researchers, and has championed these causes at many role model events designed to inspire young talent. The secretary-elect, Alex Barnett, brings experiences in university social affairs, as well as his own career transitions to help others in the field. Julio Yanes draws from his experiences serving on community service-based student organizations to bring enthusiasm to his new role as social chair, while social coordinator-elect Christian La works to bridge the gap between established and aspiring scientists. Our communication liaisons Shruti Vij and Shabnam Hakimi share a commitment to help publicize the SIG’s events and activities.
Each of these members brings to the table distinct profiles and abilities, but they are all committed to helping their peers and juniors. Together, all of us as members of the OHBM Communications Committee, will work to reach all corners of the diverse human brain mapping community, especially by fostering student and postdoc engagement. More information regarding the committee members and upcoming events can be found at the OHBM Student and Postdoc SIG page, their facebook group and on Twitter @OHBM_Trainees. We welcome this year’s new leadership to the OHBM’s Student and Postdoc SIG!
The SIG is also excited to welcome all students and postdocs to our group! We are currently looking for volunteers to help organize the many exciting events planned for OHBM 2017 in Vancouver and beyond. If you are interested in working with us to build these initiatives and support your career development, please contact us via email, facebook or twitter.
BY THE OHBM DIVERSITY AND GENDER TASK FORCE
It’s often been said that the best predictor of future history is past history. Thus, after comments at the OHBM town hall meeting in Geneva regarding the current gender imbalance of Council members (1 female, 14 males), the Council made a decision that something needed to be done to enhance gender equity and geographic diversity. Thus, the OHBM Diversity and Gender Task Force was formed.
If it is true that the best predictor of future history is the past, then it was important for the committee to obtain a historical perspective of how OHBM has been doing with respect to women in leadership roles. Perhaps the current 14:1 relationship between males and females is merely a dip in what was otherwise a balance in gender. Thus, we took a close look at the distribution of gender within leadership roles and education at the OHBM annual meetings. Like all good scientists, we will let the data speak for itself (See figures below).
Of course, like all good scientists, we also like to say ‘in brief…’ the ratio between males to females in leadership positions, awards, and keynote presentations is about 5 to 1 over the history of the organization. The one area in which there appears to be a transition to greater gender equality is in the Keynote lectures. However, such a transition has not been present in Council positions, which was highlighted at the Geneva Town Hall Meeting. The gender distribution of the general membership is not known because this information has not been requested in the past. Similarly, race and ethnicity of the membership is also not known. However, the gender distribution of poster submissions is approximately 50:50.
The goal of the Diversity and Gender Task Force is to help work with Council and the program committee over the next year to recommend changes to promote greater diversity, not only regarding gender, but also regarding ethnicity and geographic distribution. The Diversity and Gender Task Force will be using this blog site as one of our forums to communicate our work. We welcome input from the community to achieve this goal. You can share your ideas and suggestions using the comments field on this blog and/or by sending email directly to the Chair of the Task Force, Tonya White at email@example.com. We hope that as a consequence of our work those in the future will look back and see an encouraging historical trend, not only in gender, but also in race, ethnic, and geographic backgrounds of the OHBM leadership. And, most importantly, that diversity will translate into even more impactful and positive advances in our field.
As the time is upon us to vote for the new incoming members of Council, it is our desire that you vote for the best candidates, considering each individual, irrespective of gender, race, and geographic location. Please vote, your vote counts!
Panthea Heydari (PH): You seem to have a lot of different interests: You’re working with individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease, children on the Autism Spectrum…what would you say is the focus of your lab?
Susan Bookheimer (SB): I’ve focused on developing brain imaging techniques to be used on clinical populations. I work with a lot of different clinical populations (Alzheimer’s, Autism, ADHD, dyslexia, brain tumor patients, epilepsy). The idea is not to focus on a particular disorder, but, instead, to focus on making techniques appropriate for clinical evaluation, both for basic research and to help patients.
PH: Have you always been interested in neuroimaging or is this something you transitioned into from another field?
SB: It was one of those things that I accidentally happened upon. I was an epilepsy specialist and conducting neuropsychology of epilepsy research at the National Institute of Health (NIH). I happened to be there when they had a PET scanner (before fMRI existed). The NIH was one of the few places that had the capability to do water PET (activation PET) studies. Since I was working with epilepsy, we used PET for presurgical planning and language mapping. Soon, we had a MRI scanner where we could do very primitive, but effective, fMRI evaluations and that was it- I was hooked after that!
PH: That sounds like it was an amazing time to be at the NIH!
SB: Oh, it was incredible! There were amazing people there: the great Denis Le Bihan, who did the first diffusion scans, Bob Turner, who was instrumental in understanding the BOLD effect, and Peter Jezzard, among others. Since the techniques were just coming out, everything was being developed in real time, so it was very exciting!
PH: Can you please tell us a bit about your career path before and after the NIH?
SB: I spent one year at Smith College and two years at Cornell, where I studied psychology. I went to graduate school at Wayne State University in Detroit, which, at the time, was one of only three universities in the country that had a Clinical Psychology PhD Program with a specialty in Neuropsychology. I completed my internship at Yale with a focus on the Neuropsychology of Epilepsy and then was a post-doc for four years at the Epilepsy Center at the NIH. I came to UCLA afterward and have been here ever since.
PH: What are some questions that you think neuroimaging allows us to answer about the brain that we are unable to answer otherwise? What do you think is the most interesting advance you’ve learned through neuroimaging?
SB: I’d say it must be the complexity of systems that we had previously thought to be simple, i.e. systems that we understood based on watching patients experience a stroke. Prior to functional imaging, we had to wait for someone to get a stroke in a specific location, determine that location, determine what that person could no longer do, and then deduce what that brain area should do based on what the patient could no longer do. It’s a very roundabout way of trying to understand the brain and it led to very oversimplified maps- even maps is too generous a word—a very oversimplified understanding of the brain systems. I was particularly interested in language and memory at the time; where, initially, we thought we could use functional imaging to find the two common language areas: Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area. We quickly realized the language system was way more complicated than we had ever imagined.
PH: So maybe it’s like a starting point that we can continue to learn from…
SB: Yes, and it turns out that we have an awful lot to learn!
PH: Do you find that you still have the same level of passion now for science and imaging techniques that you did when you were first starting out? How has it changed over the years?
SB: I certainly have as much interest and passion for it now as I ever did. Back then, I spent a lot more time in the scanner. When we were conducting PET research, we took turns delivering the ligand to the patient (to share the radioactivity), and in the MRI, I was always either in or near the scanner. Back then, it was much more hands on and analysis software was just starting out too. There’s a tremendous amount of excitement in being right there when it’s happening! Unfortunately, that’s something I don’t really have the luxury to do anymore--I definitely miss it. Now, I spend more time trying to fund the lab, make sure the grants get written, and I do a lot of administrative work--but that’s not nearly as fun. I’d say my excitement for the science is completely undiminished but I spend lesser time doing the science than I used to then.
PH: What is your greatest scientific achievement?
SB: I would say my greatest scientific achievement was the first project that we completed which ultimately developed into the field of imaging genetics. We investigated a common polymorphism, APOE-4, a risk gene for Alzheimer’s Disease, in normal population and showed that normal volunteers who differ in their possession of the risk polymorphism had different brain activation patterns. This was my initial foray into a different way of examining the brain. Integrating the imaging and genetics together was my biggest accomplishment, even though it was a long time ago.
PH: What is your greatest non-scientific achievement?
SB: My children. I have two wonderful kids. They are my greatest achievements.
PH: Do they also share your passion for science?
SB: In their own way. My daughter ended up working with children with autism; autism research is one of my focuses. My son is interested in computers and information technology. Both my kids ended up having a scientific mind.
PH: Did you integrate the sciences into their day-to-day life?
SB: Science has been a big part of their day-to-day life since they were born. Their father and I both work here at UCLA and are both imaging scientists, so our lives were always surrounded by science. Science was very much part of my children’s upbringing.
PH: You were at OHBM 2016 in Geneva. How did you like it?
SB: It was awesome! I was initially nervous because I gave one of the keynotes, so I spent the first couple of days obsessing over my slides. I think the meetings are getting better, the science is getting better, the technology is getting better. I love OHBM.
PH: Is there anything you’ve heard or seen at the conference that has changed or influenced your work?
SB: I think the main things that I try to do, particularly at OHBM, is to be apprised of the newest techniques in acquisition and analysis. I don’t even know if I can point to one thing because there are just so many! If I could say one thing, it would be graph theory. We’ve been using graph theory for some time but to find new ways to conceptualize connectivity in the brain was a major change in the direction of imaging, evidenced by Bill Seeley’s keynote. Watching those techniques develop and seeing them at OHBM has been exciting. Most of our work now has a component of connectivity and use of graph theory.
PH: What do you think is the best piece of scientific advice that someone has given you?
SB: This is more like personal advice, but very early in my career, I was writing my first papers and feeling terribly anxious. This concept is particularly a problem for women who are not raised with natural self confidence. At this time, I contacted a friend of mine who had been publishing and asked her, “how do you get over the barrier of being so self-conscious about your work that you can write freely?” She said “I send my papers out to the scariest people I know before I send them out for publication. I figure that if I can take the criticism of the big name people in the field who scare me, then I will be okay”. So, I took her advice and that’s what I did. I sent one of my first papers to Peter Fox. He responded, read it, made comments, and he was fabulous! How to become a productive scientist is an important question, and that advice helped me tremendously.
PH: One of the things that came up at the OHBM 2016 town hall meeting was about diversity and the representation of women in science. You’ve been in the scientific world your entire career…can you comment if that representation has changed, or how you feel the role of women in science has changed over the course of your graduate degree, your post-doc, and your time here?
SB: Certainly, the laws have changed. When I was at Yale during my internship, I was the only female in the neurosurgery department and I was pregnant. Back then, it was legal for people to fire you for being pregnant. My internship advisor told me how wrong he thought it was for women to have careers and raise children. Of course, now it would be illegal to do so. I think in the old days, the sexism was much more overt and women had no legal protections. Proportionally, there exist more women in science today than there used to be, but I am disappointed with how many barriers still exist. These barriers are mostly in the unconscious biases of both men and women, but particularly men, in reviewing papers, in reviewing grants, and in setting salaries.
There are still a lot of people, particularly older men, in our scientific community who clearly exhibit covert sexism or implicit biases, and sometimes it is overt: they won’t listen to what women say, won’t listen to their opinions, make assumptions about what women can and cannot do. My female friends who are interested in mathematical aspects of what we do get a particularly hard time because it seems to be assumed that women cannot be good at math. Women who submit these complex statistical proposals get shot down. It’s just a huge problem!
PH: What do you think we can do to help that change along more quickly?
SB: I think that women need to work collectively more. We need to make the implicit biases explicit. If you see something, point it out. A lot of women don’t want to say anything because they are worried about rocking the boat; I feel we have to rock the boat, and rock it, and rock it! Let's not allow anyone to get away with this. Let’s be vigilant! For example, at grant review sessions, I’m very vigilant about the initial scores that males and females receive. I consciously look at my own review biases.
I tell my female mentees to have babies whenever they want to. You worry about it so much but, in the end, it doesn’t make that much of a difference in your career trajectory if you take a year off here or there. I feel that for most everybody, family is the most important thing no matter how hardcore a scientist you are. The more that we assert the importance of our families and normalize it, the easier it will be for the next generation of women as well.
PH: Great words! What do you do outside of the science world? What do you like to do for fun?
SB: I like to travel. I’m trying to tackle my bucket list. The first item on the bucket list was to go horseback riding across Mongolia, which I did. I’m a big fan of horseback riding and do it often. I used to have my own horse, which I loved. I hope to go back to Mongolia in a few years. I’ll be going to Thailand in April. I just returned from a week in Paris, just for fun.
PH: Wow! Sounds so fun! Well, thank you so much for chatting with me. It was a pleasure!
Interested in having your favorite neuroimager interviewed for the OHBM Blog? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BY SHRUTI GOPAL VIJ
The human brain is a complex organ that continues to fascinate many researchers the world over. Brain researchers (including those involved in bench work using microscopy to those analysing brain images with supercomputers and complex algorithms) demonstrate a range of expertise, from neuroanatomy to diverse cognitive processes. The Organization for Human Brain Mapping (OHBM) is aimed at bringing together brain researchers and providing them with a platform to discuss new science, foster collaborations and improve our understanding of the brain.
In the past twenty-two years, OHBM has achieved this goal by presenting new facets of human brain mapping at each conference. The growing presence and influence of social media compelled OHBM to foray into the blogosphere, where we present greater insight into the workings of OHBM to researchers at all levels. Our offerings also highlight recent scientific discoveries and increase your acquaintance with contributions of researchers world over. Since its inception in April 2016, we asked you (our blog visitors) to indicate your area of expertise, in order to get a sense of who we are ultimately writing for. We found a diverse, wide-ranging span of responses representative of the many, many areas of specialization that represent human brain mapping. Most of our blog visitors were academics working on modelling and analysis, imaging methods, and higher cognitive functions (See figure).
These trends are generally consistent with the nature of posts featured on the blog. However, we have not yet had time to cover some areas such as brain stimulation and applications in psychology. Moreover, human brain mapping is a multi-disciplinary field that includes scientists in basic biology attempting to understand the microstructure of the brain as well as psychologists and clinicians exploring brain functioning and changes in neurological and neuropsychiatric conditions.
As we begin our second year, we will continue bringing you the type of articles that have made our blog so successful such as our interview with Karl Friston, response to Eklund’s paper on cluster failure (which was covered in the New York Times), and recent post on MEG, yet also find ways to reach readers seeking information on basic biologic and physiologic aspects of the brain. We would also like to hear from you - which bloggers would you like featured on the OHBM blog? So, go to the right sidebar to complete the new survey on neuroscience and brain imaging bloggers you follow. Comments and suggestions can also be sent to email@example.com.
The diversity of interests and expertise within the OHBM membership is one of the many things that makes our Annual Meeting one of the most anticipated and regarded events in the brain mapping community. We look forward to seeing you in Vancouver June 25-29!
BY KEVIN WEINER
New OHBM Communications Committee article on HuffPost Science:
When I was little, I used to catch leaves with my dad in autumn as I waited for the school bus in the Pine Barrens (a part of southern New Jersey that takes credit for the origin of the Jersey Devil). I was thinking about those moments as I read a recent interview with Karl Friston (KF).
Among his numerous honors, Friston is a Fellow of the Royal Society (joining the likes of Isaac Newton and Francis Bacon) and is an inventor of many tools that allow thousands of brain mappers to statistically test hypotheses about functional brain imaging data. For his contributions, he recently received the Glass Brain Award, which is the lifetime achievement award for the Organization for Human Brain Mapping. Read more
BY KEVIN WEINER
New OHBM Communications Committee article on HuffPost Science:
It’s often hard to find easy-to-read articles about cool scientific findings that are written in a clear way - let alone articles that are understandable enough to use as bedtime reading with your child. But, here’s a little secret: there are articles out there that are actually written by scientists and approved by children before they are published. Read more
BY LEONARDO FERNANDINO
For over two decades functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has been the indisputable workhorse in human brain mapping. Its ability to localize brain activity with high spatial resolution (millimeters), coupled with its non-invasiveness, make it an excellent tool for mapping behavioral and cognitive phenomena onto detailed brain anatomy. However, since fMRI relies on changes in blood flow, volume and oxygen concentration as indicators of neural activity, millisecond-scale fluctuations in neuronal activity are not reflected in the signal. The temporal resolution of fMRI (typically > 500 ms) is therefore too coarse to track neural activity in real time and discriminate rapidly succeeding neural events.
For example, some fMRI studies indicate that auditory cortical activations in response to signed language are stronger in deaf participants than in hearing individuals, raising the possibility that the auditory cortex is rewired to process visual information in deaf individuals. An alternative interpretation, however, is that visual processing of sign language occurs entirely in the visual cortex for both groups, and that activations in the auditory cortex reflect only a later, conceptual processing stage. The speed with which these processes occur makes it challenging to determine the precise sequence in which different brain regions become active using fMRI (or any other method that relies on metabolic responses, such as fNIRS or PET).
Fortunately, other non-invasive techniques can provide such precise temporal information. Electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) directly track the electrical activity of brain cells by measuring its effects on the electrical and magnetic fields just outside the head. They allow researchers to record brain activity at a very high temporal resolution (milliseconds), close to the actual timescale of neural computations.
EEG measures changes in electrical potential generated by the brain, which reflect the bulk electrical activity of many pyramidal neurons depolarizing in synchrony, through electrode leads placed on the scalp and connected to an amplifier. Researchers can then estimate the locations of the neural sources of these signals. The accuracy of these estimates depends, among other things, on the number of electrodes used, with higher numbers resulting in more precise estimates. Typically, between 64 and 256 electrodes are used.
Nevertheless, MRI-assisted EEG source localization is becoming more common. In both cases, the inverse solution is typically computed through an iterative algorithm that searches for the combination of cortical sources whose forward-modeled signal best matches the observed signal.
The main advantage of MEG over EEG comes from the fact that, while electrical signals are blurred and distorted by the skull, magnetic fields can traverse it virtually unobstructed. Thus, the MEG signal has higher spatial resolution, which allows better estimation of its neural sources.
MEG’s main disadvantage is the cost: the scanner and magnetically shielded room run in the millions of dollars, while a high-density EEG system costs under US$150,000 (although recent advances in quantum sensing might herald the coming of low cost, room temperature MEG). Even leaving these financial considerations aside, MEG still cannot completely replace EEG (nor vice versa), since the two techniques have complementary strengths. Because a magnetic field is oriented perpendicularly to its generating current, MEG is virtually blind to activations outside the sulcal walls, while EEG is maximally sensitive to activations in the gyral crests (and somewhat sensitive to activations in the sulci). Thus, simultaneous recording of EEG and MEG can add valuable information to the source estimation procedure.
Both EEG and MEG have been used clinically in the detection and localization of seizure activity in epileptic patients, which can be crucial for diagnosis and surgical planning. In research, they have been used to study a wide variety of problems, from spatial attention and synesthesia to sentence comprehension. Researchers at the University of California San Diego, for example, used them to answer the question posed earlier, of whether the auditory cortex in deaf individuals is indeed rewired for visual processing. By recording the MEG responses to signed language in deaf and hearing participants, they showed that, in both groups, activity was confined to the visual cortex in the early perceptual stage (~100 ms), and only later, during the lexico-semantic stage (~300 ms), the auditory cortex became active. This result provides compelling evidence against the auditory rewiring hypothesis.
Like any technique, MEG and EEG have unique strengths and limitations. The advantage afforded by high temporal resolution is partly offset by the relatively low spatial resolution of the estimated source locations. Nevertheless, researchers who manage to incorporate these approaches into their toolkit should expect a rewarding boost in their ability to probe the living human brain.
BY GUEST AUTHOR R. ALLEN WAGGONER
I had the honor of knowing Dr. Kang Cheng not only as a scientific colleague, but also as one of my closest friends for more than 20 years. He was the picture of health, so I was as stunned as everyone else when I learned that he has passed away suddenly at the age of 54. He left behind his wife, Professor Mariko Miyata, and their young son Kai.
Kang was born in Ningbo, China, in the province of Zhejiang, in 1962. He did not start out as a neuroscientist but graduated from Zhejiang University in 1983, with a B.A. in Geology. After graduating, Kang worked at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chengdu Institute of Geography for six years, doing image processing of satellite images. His work in image processing led to several opportunities to come to RIKEN (The Institute for Physical and Chemical Research, in Wako-shi Japan) for short visits. One of those visits was in a neuroscience lab, the Information Science Laboratory, headed by Dr. Keiji Tanaka. Dr. Tanaka offered Kang the opportunity to join the lab on a more permanent basis, if he was interested in becoming a neuroscientist. Kang accepted this offer and moved to Japan in 1989.
Kang's neuroscience career ranged from histology and electrophysiology studies, to PET and, eventually, fMRI. In essence he left behind a career of making maps from satellite images for a career that would eventually lead to making brain maps from MRI images. The very first neuroscience study that he coauthored was published in Nature, not a bad start to a scientific career. That paper was on columnar organization in the inferotemporal cortex and columnar organization in the brain proved to be one of the primary themes in his scientific career. In 1995, Kang received his Ph.D. from Osaka University Department of Biophysical Engineering. His dissertation was entitled "Studies of Extrastriate Visual Cortex of Primates" and included both electrophysiological studies in monkeys and PET studies in humans. These studies were carried out in Dr. Tanaka's lab.
Kang stayed on in Dr. Tanaka's lab as a postdoc and when Dr. Tanaka received funding for a 4 Tesla MRI system in 1996, Kang became one of the primary members of the fMRI team within the lab. He spearheaded the effort to image cortical columns, which was and remains, a primary interest in the lab. His initial efforts lead to our 2001 Neuron paper on observing ocular dominance columns in humans, with fMRI. Ours was not the first paper reporting the observation of ocular dominance columns with fMRI, but many neuroscientists were skeptical of the earlier reports. In our paper, Kang described in detail many key methodological issues, such as the necessary shape of the Calcarine sulcus, the required slice orientation, and included illustrations of what the expected functional maps should look like if columns were successfully observed as well as when, for example, the slice orientation was not quite right. Kang's attention to detail won over the skeptics and this became the work for which Kang is best known.
Neuroimaging studies lie at the intersection of a variety of scientific disciplines. Kang (a neuroscientist) and I (an MRI physicist) working together was an example of this. But Kang recognized the importance of each member in the team having a basic understanding of all the methods being brought together. He felt that no aspect of the experiment or the analysis should be viewed as a black box, and that without at least a basic understanding of the contributions each discipline brings to neuroscience, communication with scientists from the various disciplines is very difficult. Thus our collaboration over the years included many long conversations about recent advances in MRI technology, the details of the neuroscience questions we were trying to answer, and whether the methods we, or others, were employing were even capable of yielding answers these questions. This also meant that we would often require new postdocs arriving in the lab to attend lectures aimed at lifting the cover off the black boxes in their background.
In 1997, RIKEN established the Brain Science Institute (BSI) and Dr. Tanaka's lab became one of the founding labs. In 2001, Kang was named Deputy Laboratory Head of the Laboratory for Cognitive Brain Mapping (the current name of Dr. Tanaka's lab). In 2006 Kang was named Head of the newly formed Support Unit for functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Kang continued to hold both appointments until the time of his passing. He was also an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Science and Engineering of Saitama University.
Kang's life was not limited to science; during his years at RIKEN he helped organize intramural clubs for badminton, basketball, and soccer. He also enjoyed singing karaoke. In fact, in his early days at RIKEN, one of the main ways that he learned to both read and speak Japanese was by going to karaoke with his coworkers and learning to sing Japanese songs. At Kang's wedding reception, after prompting by several friends, he even gave an impromptu rendition of one of his favorite karaoke songs. He was also an avid photographer, and enjoyed filling the inboxes of his friends with pictures of conference dinners, his family having fun, or cherry blossoms in the spring.
I first met Kang and Dr. Tanaka at the University of Western Ontario. They were visiting Ravi Menon's lab and invited me there to interview for an MRI physicist position in Dr. Tanaka's lab. Kang picked me up from the airport and since then (for the next 20 years) he always enjoyed telling people how nervous I was when we first met in the airport. From that beginning we became life-long friends and he was even a groomsman at my wedding.
Kang was a good friend not only to those of us who worked closely with him, but to many in the neuroscience community as well. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.
Two memorial websites have been set up in Kang's honor:
- One by his friends and colleagues at RIKEN: http://www.brain.riken.jp/labs/cbms/kchengmemorial.html
- The other by his friends in the Overseas Chinese Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine: https://ocsmrm.wordpress.com/2016/11/13/memorial_to_prof_kang_cheng/
BY GUEST AUTHOR PETER BANDETTINI
This post originally appeared on The Brain Blog by Peter Bandettini and Eric Wong. Republished with permission.
I’ve been working to advance Functional MRI (fMRI) since its inception. On Sept 14, 1991, two years into graduate school, and a month after seeing preliminary Massachusetts General Hospital results at the SMR meeting in San Francisco, Eric Wong and I performed our first successful fMRI experiment (Bandettini 2012).
Functional MRI, to this day, over a quarter century later, remains as exciting to me as on Day 1 as developments and applications continue at a rapid rate. While human brain imaging methodologies have arisen and grown over the years, and all of them, I’m certain, have interesting stories behind them, I wanted to share why I feel fMRI is unique:
1. fMRI was a surprising, rapid discovery.
Elements leading up to the discovery of fMRI were the discovery of BOLD by Ogawa et al (Ogawa 2012), the discovery of the dependence of blood T2 on oxygenation by Thulborn et al (Thulborn 2012), the advent of arterial spin labelling techniques by Williams et al. (Williams, Detre et al. 1992), the technical capability to perform EPI (Cohen and Schmitt 2012), and for the Minnesota group, higher field strengths (Uğurbil 2012).
The first fMRI results came from Ken Kwong’s penchant for trying interesting experiments. With Ken’s experiment, the method was discovered rather than incrementally developed. In fact, the pulse sequence and basic parameters used by Ken for BOLD were not anything overly complex or new – simple T2* weighted gradient-echo EPI at 1.5 Tesla. There was minimal time series processing involved then – in stark contrast to processing methods today. Interestingly, aside from the explosion in the sophistication of time series processing, the details of Ken’s first experiment have not qualitatively changed in terms of general practice over the years. He was just the first to realize that such a straightforward thing could be done!
This discovery surprised and excited the MRI community. To provide an analogy, it was as if we realized that if one sets the exposure settings of a standard camera just right, rather than just getting a photograph, you can get a picture of, say, subatomic particles. While the MRI scanner vendors adopted a wait-and-see approach before putting any resources into developing fMRI, the clinical and basic neuroscientists were highly motivated to start scanning.
2. fMRI was a revolutionary advance in functional imaging capability.
Functional MRI was, and still is, the only non-invasive, whole-brain method that has enough sensitivity to see human brain activity with about 2mm detail as it is happening in real time. This made for good science fiction before 1991. No one imagined it would become reality so quickly.
3. fMRI is deeply multidisciplinary.
Functional MRI brought disparate disciplines together in a way that was unprecedented. Suddenly, cognitive neuroscientists were having intense conversations with MR physicists. Computer programmers were talking with clinicians. The best fMRI research today has a signature of advancing methodology and insight into brain function – requiring close collaborations between physicists, statisticians, programmers, and neuroscientists.
4. fMRI is riding on the back of the clinical MR industry.
A huge factor that many people overlook is that fMRI was able to launch and propagate so rapidly because it leveraged the massive clinical MRI industry. In the early 90’s there were at least 20,000 clinical MRI scanners worldwide. By 1998, most MRI scanners were equipped with EPI – for other more clinically relevant purposes such as following a bolus of gadolinium for perfusion imaging or visualizing the heart beating.
Even though fMRI had minimal clinical impact, almost every MRI scanner in every hospital in the world was a potential brain function imaging machine. There was no need for a manufacturer to make fMRI machines. They already existed! These scanners were priced at over $1M each and were paid for and supported by hospital revenue – not neuroscience research grants. Today, that’s changing somewhat as the fMRI market grows and research grant revenue towards fMRI increases, but the reality is that fMRI depends on the clinical MRI market to survive.
fMRI has tremendously benefited from essentially riding on the back of the clinical MRI industry. This relationship has clear drawbacks too. Many interesting pulse sequences and custom fMRI setups are not being disseminated worldwide because the scanner vendors do not yet see a large enough market of fMRI to necessitate adding more development resources. Until fMRI becomes a thriving clinical technique (hopefully soon), it will be at the mercy of the clinical focus of the MRI scanner vendors – namely Siemens, General Electric, and Philips.
5. The degrees of freedom in fMRI acquisition is vast and unexplored.
We can do so much more than collect a simple time series of T2* weighted echo planar images. The ability to derive physiologic and neuronal information from MRI is still being explored as there are so many “knobs” you can adjust on the acquisition side to highlight gray matter, white matter, CSF, flowing blood, perfusion, iron deposits, vascular territories, trauma, leaks in the blood brain barrier, hemorrhage, deoxygenated blood, metabolism, pulsation, macromolecules, temperature, water diffusion, diffusion anisotropy, and much more. Additionally, the information that may be useful to fMRI is also still relatively untapped. Along with mapping the magnitude of the hemodynamic response as is most commonly done, we can derive information about latency, fluctuations, oxidative metabolic rate changes, blood vessel sizes, oxygenation, and more.
6. Processing methods are exploding in variety and sophistication.
Functional MRI processing methods continue to surprise – as it seems that the field continues to find new and better ways to extract, compare, and display new hemodynamic and neuronal information in groups and individuals. With the emergence of massive shared data sets, ever more subtle information about individual differences and similarities is being plumbed with the help of modern machine learning approaches.
7. Functional MRI just works.
Functional MRI just works – almost every time! It’s a stunningly robust technique. The functional effect size to noise ratio (from 6/1 to 1/1) is still perhaps too small and subject-wise variability a bit to large (with current post processing techniques) for robust clinical use (at least 10/1 is considered essential) but is large enough to see a significant effect within a few minutes of averaging. If it took 6 hours of averaging to see something, ambitious people would still do it but it would be much more difficult and the field would be much more anemic at this point.
8. fMRI requires two highly serendipitous properties.
Another key to fMRI that is commonly taken for granted: It requires two very subtle yet all-important properties to be possible at all. The first is that hemoglobin has to change its magnetic susceptibility in a non-trivial manner between being oxygenated and deoxygenated. This is an extremely rare property of a biologic tissue. If our blood were copper based – as with mollusks – rather than iron based, this would not happen. We would not have BOLD contrast as copper based blood does not change susceptibility with oxygenation. The second all-important property is that, with activation, a localized flow increase in the active region creates a highly focal overabundance of oxygenation. Why didn’t nature just require that the oxygenation stay the same in the active regions? We are still trying to figure that out, but the fact that it does – every single time with every person – similarly across species – in the same precise way in a stunningly consistent manner is highly fortunate. Perhaps our brains could have evolved a system where localized activation-induced changes in flow increased to simply match the increased metabolic needs rather than apparently overshoot them. If this happened, there would be no BOLD changes. We are lucky!
9. fMRI fills a unique temporal and spatial niche.
The information that fMRI provides fills a large and interesting temporal and spatial niche in understanding brain organization. Our brains are highly modular, and fortunately, the larger modules (motor cortex, visual cortex, etc..) are easily large enough to be discerned with fMRI. If our largest brain modules happened to be no larger than ocular dominance columns, fMRI would have never taken off, and if it did, interpretation of the results would have been a challenge at best. We’ll likely gain enough sensitivity and resolution soon to routinely probe the columnar and layer level organization of the brain soon – which brings us to the next unique property…
10. The highest fMRI spatial resolution matches the intrinsic precision of hemodynamic control.
It appears that the highest resolution achievable to fMRI (limited by scanning technology) – that of cortical columns or layers – matches the intrinsic precision of hemodynamic control. In other words, the smallest homogeneously activated region that causes a focal change in blood flow is on the order of columns or layers (<1mm). This perhaps suggests that this is the smallest scale in which groups of neurons are activated together. This last point is potentially controversial as it may suggest that looking any finer than this scale at neuronal activity may not necessarily lend insight into modular brain organization. Either way, again it’s fortuitous that fMRI resolution limits match the hemodynamic control limits – at least in humans.
The OHBM Blog Team thanks Peter Bandettini for this guest post.
Interested in submitting a guest post for consideration? Email your post to the OHBM blog team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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!
BY TZIPI HOROWITZ-KRAUS
Read Part 1 of this interview here.
Tzipi Horowitz-Kraus (THK): What do you consider to be the greatest scientific discovery that was made possible by neuroimaging?
Karl Friston (KF): That's a difficult question. I think we all have to acknowledge that there is no field in systems neuroscience that hasn't been profoundly touched by neuroimaging. However, I think the impact and import of neuroimaging is not about discovery, it is seismic in a slower and subtler way; basically, neuroimaging makes a lot of sense of stuff that we already knew. In other words, I would not point to what has been discovered as the validation of brain mapping but point to how it makes sense of the vast amount of knowledge that has been accrued through the centuries of anatomy, physiology and psychology. We knew a lot of things in the past but now we know how to put them together. Neuroimaging can contextualize mesoscopic – and indeed synaptic or molecular – findings and say why that is important and how it relates to this, and how those findings could drive the next wave of imaging neuroscience.
THK: What do you think are the most pressing issues in neuroimaging for your area of interest?
KF: More detailed and mechanistic modeling of distributed neuronal responses. For instance, getting the right kind of connectivity and determining how to best integrate structural and functional connectivity. Other issues include connecting behavior to physiology and connecting functional connectivity to the underlying synaptic processing, and connecting synaptic processing to microcircuits – and microcircuits to whole brain connectomes.
When people ask me “What is the most important issue for you?” I respond "the issues that I work on"; namely, biophysical modeling (at least in my day job). In short, getting better and better modeling tools that enable people to ask evidence-based questions about the mechanisms that underlie the functional integration they are interested in.
THK: What do you think is the future of neuroimaging for basic research, for translation and maybe for applications as well?
KF: There are many avenues for neuroimaging in the future and I guess it depends where you place yourself in the spectrum of basic to clinical neuroscience. I think neuroimaging is not a field, it's a tool: it provides data or evidence for ideas and hypotheses. In this sense, the integration of neuroimaging with other modalities of enquiry probably holds the greatest promise. For example, one can see this in the use of whole brain imaging to contextualize invasive electrophysiology – which takes us into the realm of basic neuroscience and, if we put pharmacology and genetics on top of that, molecular neuroscience. A nice example of this is the molecular basis of neuromodulation and its effect on effective connectivity at the synaptic and molecular level. To get to this future, we need mechanistic, biophysically grounded, models in place – that can generate and make predictions about the molecular biology of synaptic plasticity; for example, models based on the short-term changes in synaptic efficacy that also explain a BOLD response in the fusiform gyrus. When we get that far, I think the future will no longer be brain mapping – it will be brain metrology.
I started in schizophrenia research. The future for people like me is ultimately translational in nature. Clearly, it will be nice to predict outcome trajectories of neuropsychiatric syndromes based on a psychopathology and pathophysiology. I suspect that this ambition has led to the emergence of computational psychiatry in recent years. Interestingly, most people working in computational psychiatry come from neuroimaging. There is a clear reason why that might be the case: if you're a doctor and you're worried about your patients, a non-invasive neuroscience is very appealing. Neuroimaging is par excellence, the non-invasive tool that can harness computational and basic science advances; hopefully, in the service of refining our understanding and treatment of neuropsychiatric conditions.
THK: Fifty years from now where do you think the neuroscience field will be?
KF: I think the interesting challenges I see around at the moment are in artificial intelligence. I think there are going to be big advances in artificial intelligence – and they will inform us at many different levels in neuroscience, clinical management and possibly well-being. From a personal perspective, this is largely the focus of my Sunday job.
I love the idea of having sentient curious machines living in your computer and working with you. One can imagine interactions with e-creatures that live in an electronic world and that have a purpose beyond minimizing some cost function. They have a purpose that is epistemic – and they want to learn what they can do and learn about you – like a proactive personalized Wikipedia. They will know that you are information hungry and might create novel situations for you that you have to explore.
THK: So it will be an extension of yourself without limits. ..
KF: I was thinking more of an extension of your parents. :)
Karl Friston is a theoretical neuroscientist and authority on brain imaging. He invented statistical parametric mapping (SPM), voxel-based morphometry (VBM) and dynamic causal modelling (DCM). These contributions were motivated by schizophrenia research and theoretical studies of value-learning formulated as the dysconnection hypothesis of schizophrenia. Mathematical contributions include variational Laplacian procedures and generalized filtering for hierarchical Bayesian model inversion. Friston currently works on models of functional integration in the human brain and the principles that underlie neuronal interactions. His main contribution to theoretical neurobiology is a free-energy principle for action and perception (active inference). Friston received the first Young Investigators Award in Human Brain Mapping (1996) and was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (1999). In 2000 he was President of the international Organization of Human Brain Mapping. In 2003 he was awarded the Minerva Golden Brain Award and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2006. In 2008 he received a Medal, College de France and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of York in 2011. He became of Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology in 2012, received the Weldon Memorial prize and Medal in 2013 for contributions to mathematical biology and was elected as a member of EMBO (excellence in the life sciences) in 2014 and the Academia Europaea in (2015). He was the 2016 recipient of the Charles Branch Award for unparalleled breakthroughs in Brain Research and the Glass Brain Award, a lifetime achievement award by OHBM (the Organization for Human Brain Mapping) in the field of human brain mapping. He holds Honorary Doctorates from the University of Zurich and Radboud University.
Special thanks to Jeanette Mumford for her assistance in transcribing and editing this interview.
This interview took place December 8, 2016 at the Educational Neuroimaging Center, Faculty of Education in Science and Technology, Technion, Israel.
BY TZIPI HOROWITZ-KRAUS
If there is one name in the field of neuroscience that is known and appreciated by many young researchers, it is likely Prof. Karl Friston. He is one of the founders of brain mapping, the father of multiple theoretical models, and the creator of tools that brain mappers use to better understand that most unique organ, the brain. Brain mappers from around the world recognize and acknowledge the contributions of Prof. Friston and their impact on our understanding of brain function and organization.
I recently had the honor and pleasure to meet Prof. Friston during his visit to the Technion in Israel. Following his fascinating talk entitled “I am, therefore I think”, we met for a cup of tea in the Educational Neuroimaging Center, to discuss some of the most pressing questions in the field of neuroimaging—questions that only Prof. Friston, with his vast experience and vision, can answer.
Tzipi Horowitz-Kraus (THK): If you are riding in an elevator, how would you describe your research and what you do for a living to person you are rising with?
Karl Friston (KF): My working week can be divided into two - my day job and my theoretical work on the weekends. My day job is to model and analyze brain imaging data and provide tools that allow for Discovery Science with neuroimaging. On Sundays, I indulge myself with theoretical neurobiology, computational neuroscience and more abstract theorizing about how the brain works and what it does. I do this in the fond hope [that is sometimes realized and sometimes not] that having a global, theoretical perspective on what the brain does will inform and constrain its empirical study. This theorizing helps with many practical aspects of developing schemes and models that enable people to pose questions to their data – and ensures this process is explicit transparent and rigorous. In short, I am largely an enabler during the week and a theorist at the weekend.
THK: What motivated you to go into that area of Neuroscience?
KF: From the age of 15, I wanted to be a neuroscientist but neuroscience as we know it today didn't exist at that time. For me, it was some form of mathematical psychology. I therefore went to my careers advisor and told him I wanted to be a psychologist, but I also wanted to do physics. He told me that “if you want to be a psychologist, you have to be a Doctor first”. He clearly thought I wanted to be a psychiatrist – and neither of us knew the difference! I followed his advice and diligently went to university (studying physics and medicine). I spent six years of my life becoming a doctor, before realizing my mistake.
Having committed to being a doctor, I then had to get back to brain research as quickly as possible: there were two routes in those days – Neurology or Psychiatry. At that time, psychiatry was – and still is – very exciting (in terms of things like neuropharmacology and addiction research). So I became a psychiatrist and, as soon as I qualified, took the first opportunity to enter research. All this meant that I was 28 before I began my research career, starting with psychopharmacology and then Schizophrenia research – inspired by my mentors in biological psychiatry. Luckily, brain imaging came along at precisely that time. It was lucky because it meant I could use my undergraduate training in physics and math.
THK: In the last meeting of the Organization of Human Brain Mapping you were awarded with the “Glass Brain Award” for your great contribution to the field of Brain Mapping. You gave an inspiring speech and acknowledged the role of friendship and colleagues in your scientific career. In the competitive world of science, it is sometimes challenging to remember these important values. Will you be able to share one personal story with me where it was friendship and collaborative work that resulted in a significant scientific accomplishment?
He was looking at the geometry of the tips of the maple leafs. Within a few months, Alan managed to supplant his maple leaves with neuroimaging data. A couple of years later, I met Keith (and one of his heroes – Prof. Robert Adler; now here in Electrical Engineering at the Technion and the reason that I'm here) and I learned about the utility of Random Field Theory, which is the basis of SPM (http://www.fil.ion.ucl.ac.uk/spm/). What came out of our collaboration illustrates a practical thing about international friendships: you can only make them work – when you're both very busy – through young people. It's very much like parents who are terribly distracted by other commitments but who share a common investment in their children. There were several young people that Keith and I engaged by inventing a question; for example, how do you estimate ‘smoothness’, when the smoothness of your data is not uniform. These problems were essentially an excuse to ‘adopt a child’ who would inevitably ‘grow up’ very quickly. A nice example of this was Jonathan Taylor, who was Keith’s PhD student who came to spend a year in the Technion with Prof. Adler. Someone who made Keith and I ‘proud parents’ is Jean-Baptiste Poline. Jean-Baptiste went on to be the first winner of the OHBM Education in Neuroscience Award. This joint supervision became a good model for all my collaborative innovations. There are many similar stories. The most recent arose from a friendship with Pascal Fries: we ‘adopted’ another young person (Andre Bastos) who is now doing a wonderful job dealing with hard core issues in electrophysiology and predictive coding. I should note one's ‘children’ generally become more expert than their parents, which is a hallmark of good parenting.
THK: What advice do you have for a young graduate student who is interested in pursuing a career in neuroscience?
KF: Develop a breadth of skills, interests, and perspectives. Then build a little pyramid on this broad base as the years roll on. You will naturally hone in on the things you find attractive and engaging. Usually, these are the sorts of things you knew you wanted to do at the beginning, but they only reveal themselves clearly with time. Breadth is the key thing; in terms of the people you can work with and in terms of conceptual tools you bring to the table.
For me, math is an important part of a broad base. I often meet people who say “I wish I learned more mathematics when I was younger”. I remember doing trigonometry and thinking "This is rubbish, when on earth am I going to use all these sines and cosines?" However, I guarantee within a year you will find yourself in a situation where you need a seemingly useless skill set (even trigonometry) – and you will be cross with yourself if you ignored the earlier opportunity. In short, keep your options open. That would be my advice.
I find that lots of young scientists are often worried about their next step. I've never worried about my next job. My advice is to make a sensible decision at every little point in your career path. All you have to do is to make the right small choices and everything will be fine (if you keep your options open).
Karl Friston is a theoretical neuroscientist and authority on brain imaging. He invented statistical parametric mapping (SPM), voxel-based morphometry (VBM) and dynamic causal modelling (DCM). These contributions were motivated by schizophrenia research and theoretical studies of value-learning formulated as the dysconnection hypothesis of schizophrenia. Mathematical contributions include variational Laplacian procedures and generalized filtering for hierarchical Bayesian model inversion. Friston currently works on models of functional integration in the human brain and the principles that underlie neuronal interactions. His main contribution to theoretical neurobiology is a free-energy principle for action and perception (active inference). Friston received the first Young Investigators Award in Human Brain Mapping (1996) and was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (1999). In 2000 he was President of the international Organization of Human Brain Mapping. In 2003 he was awarded the Minerva Golden Brain Award and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2006. In 2008 he received a Medal, College de France and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of York in 2011. He became of Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology in 2012, received the Weldon Memorial prize and Medal in 2013 for contributions to mathematical biology and was elected as a member of EMBO (excellence in the life sciences) in 2014 and the Academia Europaea in (2015). He was the 2016 recipient of the Charles Branch Award for unparalleled breakthroughs in Brain Research and the Glass Brain Award, a lifetime achievement award by OHBM (the Organization for Human Brain Mapping)in the field of human brain mapping. He holds Honorary Doctorates from the University of Zurich and Radboud University
Special thanks to Jeanette Mumford for her assistance in transcribing.
BY EKATERINA DOBRYAKOVA
New OHBM Communications Committee article on HuffPost Science:
There’s been an increasing amount of media attention to the topic of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) -bolstered in part by conversations surrounding the 2015 Hollywood blockbuster Concussion. The movie Concussion describes a particular phenomenon, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE, which occurs in the brain after repeated high impact blows to the head. The diagnosis of CTE requires examining brain tissue under a microscope after death, so it can’t be diagnosed in living individuals. But in fact, there are many types of TBI, with concussion being the mildest (but most common) form. Today, brain mapping techniques are making it possible to identify TBI and track recovery.
BY PANTHEA HEYDARI
Last week, we were hit with the news. It was friday night. December 2, 2016. We were at an Escape Room in West Hollywood celebrating my friend’s successful doctoral defense. “Cheers to the Doctor!” It was glorious. He had made it the other side of graduate school. Not that there was any doubt, but, damn, did it feel good. And it wasn’t even me!! It was a night for celebration! And we had just solved the Escape Room mystery. Cherry on top of the day! But then, we got the email. “With tremendous sadness, I write to share the news that Professor Bosco Tjan was tragically killed this afternoon.”, wrote President C. L. Max Nikias. There was something about his prolific work in vision, a student--wait a stabbing (what?!)--, his family, and reflection. The only thing I saw was Bosco’s name. I looked towards my friends. The newly minted doctor in philosophy of neuroscience just sat in silence. We were stunned. “Bosco?!”
Dr. Bosco Tjan passed away on Friday, Dec 2, 2016 and the hole he left behind is felt not only by his friends and family, but also by his many students and colleagues. Professionally, Bosco was a visionary. He served as the co-director of the Dana and David Dornsife Cognitive Neuroimaging Center, taught as a professor of psychology and neuroscience, and ran his own lab investigating vision, specifically shapes and scenes. Personally, he was a coffee lover and cook, incredibly kind and helpful, and a family man.
My first foray with Bosco was in 2012, when I started my program in Neuroscience at the University of Southern California. My initial class as a graduate student was Bosco’s famous Psychology 555 course: “Introduction to functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging”. It came highly recommended, so I was excited to sit in our little conference room and listen to cautionary tales about bringing metal into the MRI room, alongside the physics behind the BOLD signal, and instructions on how to use FSL to analyze data. His course was challenging and served as my first taste into the world of functional neuroimaging. I loved everything about it! Bosco was an incredible teacher: he was patient, knowledgeable, didn’t mind explaining things multiple ways, and had an incredible (to me!) sense of humor. He was an amazing source of information, and on the rare occasion that he didn’t know the answer, Bosco would look up resources and direct you on the right path. Bosco went above and beyond to help students understand and apply concepts. He always had an open door (or email) policy and was the “go-to” person for many students and professors for questions regarding the scanner, visual tracking, or how fMRI works in general. As a member of my committee, Bosco was invaluable in answering questions about my experimental design: which sequence to use and how to deal with inconsistencies in my data. He took the time to develop my study with me, not just dictating what to do and how to do it--he wanted to make sure I understood each step. Many of our conversations casually started over a morning cup of espresso in the kitchen and continued on whiteboards in his office. Or in between sequences in the basement while I ran subjects. He was always testing, enhancing, learning. I am truly lucky to have had Bosco as a professor and committee member. His attitude towards science, education, and mentorship was something to try to emulate, though I doubt many of us can.
It was an honor, Bosco. Thank you for all that you did for our graduate program, our institute, and our university. May you rest in peace. Or, maybe, if you prefer, with the clicks and hums of the scanner in the background.
OHBM Communications Committee welcomes your comments, stories, and memories of Dr. Tjan. Please post these in the comments (upper right corner of post). You can read more about Dr. Tjan's life and work here.
BY KEVIN WEINER
Excerpt from OHBM Communications/Media Team article on Huff Post Science:
New puzzles for brain scientists
No matter how exciting the topic, your mind is bound to wander at some point when you’re sitting in a room for several hours listening to scientific presentations. This is exactly what happened to me during the meeting between the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Organization for Human Brain Mapping (OHBM) in Geneva. As a history of science nerd, when my mind wandered, it wasn’t about what I’d be having for lunch or a new beer I might try after the meeting was over. Instead, my mind wandered to a 1927 headline from the New York Times I recently stumbled upon that read, ‘Human brain still puzzles scientists.’ I began to wonder what headlines would look like 100 years from now and how the conversations in that room were actively shaping the headlines of the future. Read more.
BY CYRIL PERNET
The second meeting of the OHBM Alpine Chapter, with participants from Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, France and Great Britain, took place on November 25-26, 2016. Over 100 scientists spent the weekend in Salzburg discussing translational imaging and the applications of fMRI in the clinic. At the meeting, leading Alpine researchers discussed the clinical applications of MRI, such as fMRI in single patients, advancing presurgical applications in epilepsy, and diagnosing developmental abnormalities.
Cyril Pernet (CP): Could you tell us about the history of the Alpine OHBM Chapter?
Roland Beisteiner (RB): We started with functional MRI in 1992 at the Medical University of Vienna at the Department of Neurology. Interest spread throughout Austria and in 2004 we founded the Austrian Society for Functional MRI.
CP: Why did you decide to become an OHBM Chapter?
RB: Since the foundation of the Austrian Society, interest around functional MRI and clinical applications of new medical technologies grew continuously and collaborations with colleagues from Switzerland and Germany increased. The proposal from OHBM Council to form regional chapters was a perfect opportunity for us to reflect this regional growth.
CP: What are the benefits of becoming a Chapter?
RB: OHBM is a very well-known organization and it gave us immediate ‘brand’ recognition, increasing our visibility. Interestingly, this also attracted new members to OHBM.
CP: What is the mission of the Alpine Chapter?
RB: At its heart this is about scientific exchange and increase in collaborations oriented toward clinical research. We are however dedicated to have that exchange open not just to the clinicians but also to psychologists and methods-oriented people. Finally, we are also committed to education, and this annual symposium and our educational courses (e.g. regular courses on clinical functional imaging) are accredited for continuous medical education.
CP: To conclude this interview, could you tell us what do you see in the future of the Chapter?
RB: What I see immediately, is our next Alpine Chapter Symposium, Nov. 3-4, 2017 in Bern. Generally, it is our hope that we can push for greater visibility of translational imaging. We want to extend clinical applicability of brain mapping including new techniques, like brain stimulation. Beyond research on patient groups, this shall put these amazing technologies to use for the immediate benefits of patients in the clinic.
Further info on the OHBM Alpine Chapter meeting can be seen in these storified meeting details.
Follow us on Twitter: OHBMSciNews – the OHBM Alpine tweets were ‘storified’ by C Pernet: https://storify.com/CyrilRPernet/getting-started
The Organization of Human Brain Mapping is pleased to announce a new OHBM People’s Choice Abstract Award to be given to one team presenting their research during the 2017 OHBM Annual Meeting poster sessions in Vancouver. The goal of this award is to allow meeting attendees to highlight their favorite presentation and to bring the most popular abstract into the OHBM spotlight. Annual Meeting attendees will vote on their favorite (using in-app voting), and the team who receives the most votes from registered attendees will be awarded the People’s Choice Abstract Award. The first author of the winning team will receive the cash prize of $500 at OHBM 2017 Closing Ceremonies.
HOW IT WORKS
OHBM Annual Meeting attendees vote for their favorite abstract using the OHBM mobile app. Each attendee can vote for up to two abstracts, one during each of the two-day blocks (one vote during Monday/Tuesday session and one vote during Wednesday/Thursday session). Any duplicate votes from users or votes from unregistered users will be removed. The abstract with the highest number of votes from unique voters will be announced at the Closing Ceremony.
All abstracts presented at the OHBM Annual Meeting, as posters or oral presentations, are eligible for this award. No shows are disqualified from consideration.
For questions regarding the new People’s Choice Award, please contact OHBM at email@example.com.
BY NIKOLA STIKOV
One of the newest initiatives of the OHBM is the establishment of a replication award to highlight the Organization’s commitment to reproducibility and transparency in neuroimaging research. The OHBM Replication Award will recognize the best replication study of the past year. The 2017 award is generously supported by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.
Continuing with the open science coverage on this blog, I interviewed Chris Gorgolewski at the Center for Reproducible Neuroscience at Stanford University, to discuss the rules and implications of this new initiative.
Nikola Stikov (NS): First of all, what is a replication study?
Chris Gorgolewski (CG): A replication study is a repetition of a published study procedure with minor changes to variables assumed not to be important for the measured phenomena (this depends on the experiment, but could include demographics, scanner model, visual stimuli delivery system, analysis strategy, etc.). Replication studies usually (but not always) have a larger sample size than the original study for appropriate statistical power, and are performed by a different team than the original study (but planning of a replication study can benefit from involvement of the original researchers). Even though minor changes between the original study and its replication are inevitable they should be minimized as much as possible.
NS: What about methodological replications? Could a study applying different data processing streams to the same data (in contrast to acquiring new data) be eligible for the award?
CG: Yes, such studies should be considered as a form of a replication and will be eligible for the award. Since there is a lot of variability in how important methodological replications vs traditional ones are, the impact of such submissions will have to be evaluated by the judges on a case by case manner.
NS: What are the criteria used to choose the best paper?
CG: Each paper will be evaluated according along two dimensions: quality of the replication attempt and importance of evaluated finding. There are several factors that can improve the quality of a replication study: preregistration (especially if the registration was first evaluated by the researchers who designed the original study), sample size (and thus statistical power), transparency (publication of code and data), and lack of conflicts of interest. The importance of the evaluated finding rests on the degree to which it answers an interesting and important question. For example, findings that are a basis for a whole new branch of neuroimaging, challenge existing models of cognition, or are basis for policy changes in context of mental health care should be considered more important and worthwhile replicating. Admittedly, the second criterion is very subjective, but we are confident that the jury will do a good job evaluating all of the submissions.
NS: So does every replication need to be preregistered and fully open?
CG: Not necessarily. We wouldn’t discredit studies that choose not be fully transparent (and not share code or data), or did not preregister their methods. After all, even a non-preregistered replication attempt with closed code and data is a valuable contribution to scientific knowledge. Having said that, if I was presented with two identically powered replication studies of which one was preregistered and shared data and the other did not, I would personally have greater trust in the more transparent of the two.
NS: You mentioned “replication attempt”. Are failed replications also eligible for the award?
CG: Absolutely yes! Replication studies are meant as an accumulation of knowledge, and both null as well as statistically significant results contribute to our understanding of a given phenomenon. For example a well powered failed replication challenging an important study can be very valuable in preventing the field from researching a “dead end”.
NS: Are researchers allowed to nominate their own paper or does someone else have to do it?
CG: Self-nominations are perfectly fine.
NS: How about old replication studies, are they eligible?
CG: Yes. For this year’s first edition (2016), there are no time restrictions in terms of recency. This might change in the following years (limiting the award just to papers published in the previous year).
NS: Is there enough time to submit for people that just found out about the award? Getting reviews and resubmitting revisions of a replication paper will take at least half a year.
CG: Preprints that did not yet undergo a formal peer review process are perfectly acceptable submissions for the replication award, so you don’t need to wait until your paper gets accepted. Furthermore the submission deadline has been pushed to 22nd of February 2017.
NS: Can scientists reuse old data collected in their lab to perform a replication study?
CG: Of course! In fact I expect most labs are sitting on a wealth of replication data that was never published. All it takes to be eligible for the OHBM replication award is to write it up as a preprint and apply.
NS: You said that for the award preprints are sufficient, but which journals are likely to accept such a study for publication?
CG: PloS, Frontiers and Nature Scientific Reports seem like good bets, as they do not use “impact” as a criterion of acceptance. NeuroImage: Clinical should also be happy to accept replication studies, given it made an explicit editorial call for them. Cortex supports a Registered Reports article type which guarantees publication of your results independent of the outcome of the experiment given they first accept your preregistration report. This mechanism might be very useful for replications (since writing a preregistration plan for a replication is easier than for a standard study). There are probably more journals happy to publish replications - you just need to try!
NS: How was the idea for the OHBM Replication Award conceived?
CG: It was proposed by Russell Poldrack, Jean-Baptiste Poline, David Kennedy, Thomas Nichols and myself.
NS: What is the process to nominate a paper for the award?
CG: Just send a link to the paper/preprint you are nominating together with a short paragraph justifying your nomination to firstname.lastname@example.org.
NS: Chris, thank you so much for answering so many questions about this new award. We look forward to seeing the impact of recognizing reproducible results in neuroimaging research!
You can find more information about the OHBM Replication Award here.
The Communications Committee of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping is beginning its second year and is looking for additional members. This is a great opportunity to become part of a vibrant and thriving committee that produces posts for the OHBM blog, articles for HuffPost Science, conducts video and email interviews with top brain researchers and uses social media to communicate that work to the brain mapping community.
The formation of this Committee was approved by the OHBM Council in 2015 with the primary goal of increasing the visibility and impact of members’ work within the OHBM community and to extend it to a broader audience. The Communications Committee is now seeking a few additional volunteers for a three year term. If you have experience writing, editing copy, social media, video, graphic design or website maintenance we hope you’ll consider becoming part of the Communications Committee. OHBM seeks to include a diversity members from a wide range of geographic locations, different experience levels, and encourages women and minorities to apply.
We welcome you to participate in this very important OHBM initiative. If interested, please complete the Call for Volunteers online form no later than Monday, November 28. To apply you must be a current member of OHBM (visit www.humanbrainmapping.org to renew your membership or become a member). Submitted applications will be presented to the Communications Committee leadership for consideration and selection.
If you have any questions, please contact Stephanie McGuire, Communications Manager at email@example.com.
Lancet Neurology calls DMCBH “the future of neuroscience,” and celebrated this new era of patient care and scientific discovery in its October 2014 issue. Leveraging the expertise of over 150 faculty members in brain research at UBC, SFU and UVic (including 28 Canada Research Chairs, 6 BC Leadership Chairs, 1 Canada Excellence Research Chair, and 7 donor-funded professorships in neuroscience) and the personalized, high-quality care provided by VCH, DMCBH is a provincial resource for clinical care for over 20,000 patients and their families per year.
We hope you’ll plan to attend the 2017 OHBM Annual Meeting for the valuable educational programs, keynotes and networking opportunities, but there will also be many opportunities to visit fantastic dining establishments, get out into nature for outdoor activities, learn about the history and culture of Canada and enjoy vibrant nightlife and entertainment options.
Stay tuned for more information about the student-run BrainMeOut initiative, which will make a return appearance in Vancouver, following its successful debut in Geneva.
BY EKATERINA DOBRYAKOVA
Excerpt from OHBM Communications/Media Team article on Huff Post Science:
At the end of June, I found myself through running the streets of Geneva with two other brain mappers--all three of us sweaty from trying to catch the bus. Even though I live in New Jersey and am used to muggy weather in the summer, I couldn’t help but recognize how humid it was. We nearly missed the bus that would take us to the World Health Organization (WHO) to talk about how the Organization for Human Brain Mapping (OHBM) and WHO can work together to improve international public health through brain research. Thankfully, we made it on board and were able to get on with the important work of the day.
On July 1st, 2016, I joined a diverse group of behavioral neurologists, radiologists, psychiatrists, neuroscientists and public health professionals from around the world gathered in that building for a joint meeting between the WHO and OHBM. The WHO building opened its doors in 1966 and carries the stamp of time. Interestingly, we were all there to discuss something that could not have even been imagined in 1966 - applications of brain research to matters of public health. Read more.
BY NILS MUHLERT
What makes a successful international conference? Getting field-leading researchers to describe their work is of course key, but setting the stage (including hiring the venue, organising transport and arranging evening events) is equally important. As part of our OHBM 2016 insight series, we’ve provided views and highlights from those at the front of the stage - its keynote speakers (including Tim Behrens, Daniel Wolpert, Anissa Abi-Dargham and Nora Volkow) and special interest groups. Here, we look behind the curtain at the local organising team, those whose hard work fools you into thinking that organising an event on this scale is simple. No mean feat when you’re hosting 3,168 participants in one of the world’s most expensive countries!
The local organising committee (LOC) in Geneva was chaired by Christoph Michel, Professor of Neuroscience in the University of Geneva and a longtime attendee of OHBM. The LOC was greatly enhanced by the endeavours of a small group of local post-docs who, concerned that Geneva’s high costs might discourage those with tighter travel budgets, formed their own local organizing team, named BrainMeOut, to mitigate that problem. Their efforts provided students, postdocs and early career researchers with easy access to tasty, well-priced food and a chance to enjoy events hosted by this local BrainMeOut team: a varied mix of city tours, swing concerts, networking evenings and open air ping-pong contests (where – to my misfortune - my quiet German colleague revealed her former life as a Tischtennis-Bundesliga player). We speak to Christoph Michel and to Raphaël Thézé, co-director of the BrainMeOut events:
OHBM: I’m here with Dr. Christoph Michel, professor at the University of Geneva, and also chair of the OHBM local organising committee. Christoph, tell us about your experiences with OHBM.
Christoph Michel: I’ve been coming to OHBM since the beginning, its first meeting in Paris. I haven’t made it to all of them, but to most of them. And I’ve always wanted to host it here in Geneva, because I think it is a great opportunity to mark Geneva on the map of the neuroimaging community.
OHBM: What are your impressions from the meeting?
CM: It was fantastic – a real success. Most things ran smoothly. The executive office of OHBM has a lot of experience, which made hosting it easy to do. There were of course some challenges, mainly relating to hosting the conference slightly outside the city but, overall, I’d say it went OK. And we’ve had a lot of highlights, both scientifically and socially. I think the local neuroimaging community, particularly the younger generation, benefitted greatly from the meeting - be it through presenting their work, making contacts, showing the available research opportunities in Geneva, presenting the Masters and PhD programs, and so on.
OHBM: Anything you’re particularly proud of?
CM: We helped set up a symposium and meeting between the OHBM and the World Health Organisation. Making this contact possible was one of my main goals, since they’re based in Geneva. We organized a workshop at WHO after the meeting - it was extremely interesting and led to many ideas for future collaborations between the two organizations. It was great to see that the leaders of all international human brain projects participated and shared their ideas of how human brain research and the OHBM can contribute to public global health.
OHBM: And one last question – where would you like the next OHBM meeting to be held? We have a couple lined up but what would be your dream location?
CM: I think that it should dare to go once to South America, to increase the involvement of the South American neuroimagers.
OHBM: I second that! Thank you Christoph for joining us.
OHBM: How did BrainMeOut come about – who were the organisers, and how did they get in contact with the OHBM committee?
Brain Me Out: The name BrainMeOut – BMO for the insider – is actually inspired from the song “Take Me Out” by Franz Ferdinand, and the intention behind it is conspicuous. The concept itself is the work of three neuroimaging-focussed graduate students from the University Of Geneva. At first Christoph Michel reached out for us to join the local organizing committee. He knew we had some experience with event organization in Geneva and that we had participated in multiple national and international meetings. He gave us the mission to make this OHBM meeting great. We knew from experience that the key to a successful meeting was the human contact and the networking opportunities, and we knew that Geneva was not an easy city to get around for the occasional visitor. So we devised a plan, BrainMeOut, where we would do most of the work upstream, and create several opportunities for participants to get together. We asked ourselves what kind of social experience we would want and expect from an international conference; mostly it was about getting to know the city without getting lost, connecting easily with fellow researchers from around the world, having a good time at night with labmates and making new acquaintances without having to think about it.
OHBM: Part of BrainMeOut’s success was the variety of events hosted throughout the OHBM meeting – which were your favourite events from this, and why?
BMO: The HeadQuarter (HQ) was definitely a hit. It acted as a node connecting the various activities and offering a regular, welcoming yet very lively meeting point through the week. It did most of the work to connect people. I was particularly fond of the photobooth on Tuesday night, which really broke the ice and allowed participants to go home with a memory of the evening.
OHBM: How did you find the experience of organising and hosting BrainMeOut? Did you get to meet any useful contacts through this?
BMO: Organizing BMO was thrilling. We had a lot of planning to do, we sought funding on our own, we managed big budgets, gathered a team and designed a communication strategy. We certainly learned a lot from that experience. Contact-wise, we met with the OHBM central committee, worked alongside the OHBM communication team and certainly developed a strong network in Geneva. One downside is that during the meeting itself we were generally too busy to actually make contact with other participants. Fortunately, we had a great team of volunteers to help us! It was like throwing a party with our friends, and we had a lot of fun doing it.
OHBM: What advice would you give someone who wanted to organise a similar event at future meetings?
BMO: Not long after the conference, one of the participants emailed us to say “it was like having a personal travel agency…” and that’s what future committees should keep in mind while organizing BMO. From the start, it has to be managed by local brain imagers, familiar with the host city and able to deal with the planning and booking. An extended funding campaign is also critical to offer a greater diversity of activities, and to keep the expenses (i.e. drinks and food) as low as possible for OHBM attendees. In terms of activities, we are convinced that the key to success is, on the one hand, having a clear and informative website and an information booth at the conference venue, and, on the other hand, to hold a central HQ connecting the activities through the week. With more time, or more resources, we would probably have focused on offering more and even crazier group activities to encourage total strangers to bond and maybe later share their science around a drink at the HQ.
OHBM: Thanks Raphaël for your insight, the BMO team’s hard work, and a great set of events!
Please remember that the abstract deadline for OHBM 2017 is slightly earlier this year, on Thursday the 15th of December. See you in Vancouver for more science, socialising and BrainMeOut activities!