Deep brain mapping to isolate evidence of Gulf War syndrome

November 20th, 2008 - 12:05 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Nov 20 (IANS) Researchers are pioneering use of spatial statistical modelling to analyse brain scan data from military veterans, aiming to pinpoint brain areas affected by Gulf War Syndrome.Richard Gunst, Wayne Woodward and William Schucany, professors in Southern Methodist University (SMU), are collaborating with imaging specialists at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre (UTSW) to compare brain scans of people suffering from the syndrome with those of a healthy control group.

Gulf War Veterans (GWV) are being tested at UTSW using a type of brain imaging called functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) while they perform tasks intended to activate specific regions of the brain.

The SMU team is analysing brain activation signals reflected from the multiple images taken of each subject’s brain to determine which variations are naturally occurring and which are due to the syndrome. Previous analyses have been unable to separate real distinctions from “noise”.

The SMU team’s primary challenge is in identifying differences in brain activation from locations deep within the brain using measured brain signals that are weak and vary from location to location, according to an SMU release.

Spatial modelling uses information from neighbouring locations to strengthen the weak signals in active brain locations so the signal can be detected as real.

“Spatial modelling in brain imaging is new,” Gunst said. “This has not been done the way we are doing it.”

Rapid technological advances in medical imaging of the human brain are imposing demands for new statistical methods that can be used to detect small differences between normal and dysfunctional brain activity, Gunst said.

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