The Boundaries of the Brain laboratory at the University of Malta focuses on neuroimaging and neural cartography. We are a dedicated team coming from different areas including medicine, medical biochemistry, engineering, machine learning, cosmology and more!
To find out what motivates our lab, have a look at the video below:
The concept of a “brain region” has become a fundamental tenet of many types of neuroscientific analyses. It is now common to think of the brain as a “connectome.” A connectome describes the physical or functional interaction between various brain regions. As such, how one defines a “brain region” has the potential to completely change the results of a particular analysis. While approaches exist to easily “parcellate” the brain into an arbitrary number of brain regions, very few of these approaches are anatomically principled. Most, make three strong, and not necessarily plausible, assumptions. The first is that these regions are static, the second is that these regions have sharp boundaries, the third is that these boundaries fully circumscribe a region.
These misconceptions drove our lab to develop the Vogt-Bailey Toolbox. The VB Toolbox is based on spectra graph theory and is used to quantify boundaries in the human cerebral cortex in a biologically meaningful fashion that relies on biologically plausible assumptions. The code for this software is openly available on GitHub.
To find out more on the mathematical principles it was built on, have a look below:
The BOB project had three specific objectives:
Optimise the software to decrease computational time;
Test the software by using data from healthy individuals;
Apply the technique on clinical data in order to evaluate the possibility of using such maps to identify clinical disorders.
Our project BOB has been successful in achieving all its objectives which allowed the extension of the project, now named BE-BOB, by the University of Malta's research excellence fund.
Beyond the boundaries of the brain
This project has 3 specific objectives:
1. To test our algorithms against competing approaches and include the most promising candidate algorithms into our software;
2. To test and validate the novel algorithms and statistical approaches on a cohort of brain scans with specific diseases, with an initial focus on autism;
3. To quantify the statistical certainty of the boundary maps we produce. Our VB toolbox will help answer both basic scientific questions about the nature of the brain as well as be a stepping-stone for mental health diagnostic and prognostic solutions.
This project is currently ongoing.
Measuring the Architecture of consciousness
MARC's objective is to substantially increase the predictive accuracy of prognoses for disorders of consciousness. The main aim of the project will be to develop a data analysis pipeline to process substantial amounts of Magnetic Resonance to develop a neural architecture map that is associated with different metrics of consciousness.
The current study investigates inter-site and inter-scanner variability in a “travelling heads” type of study. Using scanners by the same manufacturer (but two different models), the study investigates qMRI metrics for inter-site and inter-scanner differences and parcel-level effects. Thus, the current study eliminates potential differences in MR images emanating from equipment being created by different manufacturers or from differences in the individuals’ brains under study. By doing so, we hope to harmonise our measurements across countries and scanners and achieve identical results within acceptable tolerance limits.
This study is organised by The BOB lab at the University of Malta and funded by a COST Action grant CA18106.
Brain Awareness Week
In honor of Brain Awareness Week, the Boundaries of the Brain Lab hosted a treasure hunt within the confines of the University's campus, which was converted into a symbolic representation of the brain. Participants were required to envision themselves situated within the folds and grooves of their own cerebral cortex as they navigated through the challenge. Each challenge successfully surmounted lead to the next hint and ultimately to the final destination. The winning team who emerged victorious was "Brainless" after overcoming all obstacles. Join us at the quad and prepare to embark on an exciting journey to discover the boundaries of your brain!