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Section: Research Program

Combined M/EEG and dMRI

dMRI provides a global and systematic view of the long-range structural connectivity within the whole brain. In particular, it allows the recovery of the fiber structure of the white matter which can be considered as the wiring connections between distant cortical areas. These white matter based tractograms are analyzed e.g. to explore the differences in structural connectivity between pathological and normal populations. Moreover, as a by-product, the tractograms can be processed to reveal the nodes of the brain networks, i.e. by segregating together gray matter that share similar connections to the rest of the white matter. But dMRI does not provide information on:

On the opposite, M/EEG measures brain activation over time and provides, after source reconstruction (solving the so-called inverse problem of source reconstruction), time courses of the activity of the cortical areas. Unfortunately, deep brain structures have very little contribution to M/EEG measurements and are thus difficult to analyze. Consequently, M/EEG reveals information about the nodes of the network, but in a more blurry (because of the inverse problem) and fragmented view than dMRI (since it can only reveal brain areas measurable in M/EEG whose activity varies during the experimental protocol). Given its very high temporal resolution, the signal of reconstructed sources can be processed to reveal the functional connectivity between the nodes  [75].

While dMRI and M/EEG have been the object of considerable research separately, there have been very few studies on combining the information they provide. Some existing studies deal with the localization of abnormal MEG signals, particularly in the case of epilepsy, and on studying the white matter fibers near the detected abnormal source  [67], [70], but to our knowledge there are very few studies merging data coming both from M/EEG and dMRI at the analysis level  [72], [56], [46], [73].

Combining the structural and functional information provided by dMRI and M/EEG is a difficult problem as the spatial and temporal resolutions of the two types of measures are extremely different. Still, combining the measurements obtained by these two types of techniques has the great potential of providing a detailed view both in space and time of the functioning brain at a macroscopic level. Consequently, it is a timely and extremely important objective to develop innovative computational tools and models that advance the dMRI and M/EEG state-of-the-art and combine these imaging modalities to build a comprehensive dynamical structural-functional brain connectivity network to be exploited in brain connectivities diseases.

The CoBCoM ERC project aims to develop a joint dynamical structural-functional brain connectivity network built on advanced and integrated dMRI and M/EEG ground-breaking methods. To this end, CoBCoM will provide new generation of computational dMRI and M/EEG models and methods for identifying and characterizing the connectivities on which the joint network is built. Capitalizing on the strengths of dMRI & M/EEG and building on the bio-physical and mathematical foundations of our models, CoBCoM will contribute to create a joint and solid network which will be exploited to identify and characterize white matter abnormalities in some high-impact brain diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Epilepsy and mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI).