International collaboration internship

I am Gloria Martí, a neurologist who works in Clínica Universidad de Navarra, Pamplona (Spain). As part of my Ph.D. project I have performed a formative stay in University Medical Centre Ljubljana.

The aim of the internship was to learn about spatial covariance analyses (e.g SSM/PCA) a kind of  multivariate approach of brain Fluorodeoxyglucose  Positron Emission Tomograph imaging. This statistical approach assesses the metabolic connectivity, in other words, it shows the brain regions with an abnormal activity which are in turn functionally interrelated. This analysis is designed to identify a disease-related pattern. Moreover, a unique property of this assessment is that the pattern expression can be prospectively calculated for a subject in an independent cohort.

It has been a truly interdisciplinary experience, collaborating closely between neurologists (Maja Trošt, Tomaž Rus, and Matej Perovnik) and medical physics (Petra Tomše, Eva Rebec, and Andrej Studen). We have assessed both theoretical and practical issues: imaging harmonization, preprocessing adjustments, obtention of disease-related patterns and their cross-validation, papers discussion, etc.  This international collaboration has been a great opportunity in my professional career, I do recommend it. Thus, I have pushed ahead with my Ph.D. project and I feel more confident and autonomous.

I would like to express my gratitude to the group for their kind reception and unconditional help. I hope It would be the beginning of the present and future fruitful collaborations.

Gloria Martí

Report from neuroimaging summer school

Cajal Advanced Neuroscience Training Programme is organized by five partner institutions with the main aim to educate young neuroscientists. Main organizer is Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) and it organizes several trainings on different neuroscience-related topics each year. I participated in neuroimaging summer school, entitled Whole Brain Imaging in Bordeaux between 9th and 27th September 2019.

I spent three weeks at Neurocampus listening to lectures from local and visiting scholars in the morning and actively participated in the afternoon project work. Lectures’ topics were diverse, but all related to neuroimaging techniques. We were introduced both to widely used methods, such as structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), electroencephalography (EEG) and positron emission tomography (PET), as well as new methods, such as functional near-infrared spectroscopy and functional ultrasound. A special session was devoted to challenges of open science and public available data and related ethical dilemmas.

In the afternoons I worked in pair on a project under a constant surveillance of a one or two senior researchers, who were always available for explanations and advice. In the first project we addressed one of the holy grails of neuroscience – how to combine and interpret information from same subject obtained with different imagining modalities and clinical tests. In the project we were taught how to pre-preprocess and analyze scans obtained with T1-weighted MRI, resting-state functional MRI and diffusion weighted imaging. We analyzed data together with the results of neuropsychological testing. In the second project we tried to answer a question, whether we can use resting-state functional MRI data to predict biological sex of participants. We used classical statistical approaches and novel machine learning methods. Novel analytical and neuroimaging methods are opening new challenges and in parallel new opportunities for further understanding of healthy and diseased brains. In order to achieve significant progress in the future, the collaboration between experts from different fields is therefore absolutely critical.

The Cajal Advanced Neuroscience Training Programme offered me, through its intensive and diverse programme, plenty of opportunity to upgrade previous knowledge. Furthermore, I was introduced also to novel techniques that are currently still being developed. I really liked individual approach to project work. Instructors were flexible, very knowledgeable and always ready to answer any question asked. Additionally, the lectures were of high quality and the majority of lecturers managed to give an introduction to practical and theoretical background and then upgrade the basic knowledge with most recent research findings. I would recommend this, or similar summer schools organized by FENS, to anyone with an interest in neuroscience and some background on different neuroimaging techniques and brain biology. The instructors and lecturers were experts of different fields (medicine, biology, physics, mathematics, computer science…) and were always available for a discussion. In the end, I would like to add that the registration fee covers three meals a day, a stay in the nearby hotel and a one-day trip to Bordeaux’s vineyards.

Matej Perovnik

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Picture of summer school attendees and the organizing team (President of the organizing committee: prof. dr. Katrin Amunts; local organizers: prof. dr. Bernard Mazoyer in prof. dr. Sylvain Miraux).

Blood-brain barrier permeability in Parkinson’s disease

The lecture is CANCELLED due to the personal reasons of dr. Dhawan.

On Friday, October 18 at 6 PM, prof. Vijay Dhawan (medical physicist, The Center for Neurosciences at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, New York) will give a lecture titled Blood-brain barrier permeability in Parkinson’s disease. Prof. Dhawan is a long-term collaborator with the Neurology Clinic of UKC Ljubljana. The lecture will take place in the main lecture room of the Faculty of Medicine Ljubljana.

Cordially invited!

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Alzheimer’s Association International Conference

Between 14th and 18th July we attended a world congress on Alzheimer’s disease in Los Angeles, USA (Alzheimer’s Association International Conference). The main topic of the congress was Alzheimer’s dementia (AD), but also other dementias were discussed. The presenters addressed AD from different perspectives and different disease phases. Recent failures of anti-amyloid drugs once again questioned the main amyloid hypothesis of development of AD, which assumes amyloid deposition to be a key pathophysiological step. New, currently tested, drugs are therefore mainly targeting the other protein (tau) involved into pathophysiology of AD. Anti-amyloid drugs will nonetheless be tested further in the future in healthy participants, who are carriers of AD related mutations and are deemed to develop AD in the future. Lately, new targets for drugs, mainly inflammation (astrocytes and microglia), are being explored. There is still a lot of ongoing research about development of new and improvement of old biomarkers (new analytic methods, combining different modalities etc.) and especially vibrant is the field of blood-based biomarkers. Because there is still a lack of causative treatment nowadays, many lectures addressed preventive measures based on healthy lifestyle i.e., proper physical activity, social network, Mediterranean diet, cognitive training and sleep. These preventive measures can reduce the risk for development of dementia and ameliorate their progress. We actively participated in the congress. Maja Trošt presented a specific disease-related metabolic pattern of Creutzfeld-Jakob disease (Rus et al. Metabolic Brain Pattern of Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease and Its Biological Significance. Abstract). Next year’s congress will be held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands between 26th and 30th July 2020.

Matej Perovnik and Maja Trošt

Medical physics research group paid registration fee for Maja Trošt.

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