Recent progress on MRI-based brain connectivity study such as the Human Connectome Project (HCP) and BRAIN Initiative in the United States has generated a surge of interests for understanding basic mechanisms of the working brain and potential applications in the diseased brain. The long-term scientific pursuit of our lab is to integrate advanced MRI methods with network computation and neuromodulation techniques and investigate the neuropathological and therapeutic mechanisms of psychiatric disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder in both human patients and monkey models.
Biological underpinnings of structural and functional brain connectomics
There are multiple parallel functional areas (neural networks) existing in the mammalian brain that are coordinated to process diversified sensory inputs. Although the existence of interaction (communication) across many areas has been implicated by the correlation of fMRI signals, the neural and physiological correlates are not entirely clear and controversial. During the past few years, the concept of resting-state brain networks has stimulated a flurry of fMRI publications because it appears to generate a revolutionizing view of brain working mode and functional imaging per se. It has also stirred hot debates on the interpretation and significance of the functional connectivity inferred by fMRI. We are planning to combine neuroanatomical, electrophysiological techniques with MRI measurements to investigate the biological basis of structural and functional MRI-based connectomics.
Imaging-based diagnosis and intervention of psychiatric disorders
Mood disorders including obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) are likely accompanied by distributed system-level disturbances in the brain circuitry. We plan to apply virus-based gene manipulation to create the monkey diseased models, and conduct behavioral training such as cognitive flexibility paradigms, to investigate the underlying pathological mechanisms using MRI and neurostimulation approaches. We parallel MRI measurements and brain stimulation on psychiatric patients and probe the therapeutic mechanisms so as to optimize individual’s treatment outcome.
Comparative MRI-based connectomics across species
One research objective of structural and functional neuroimaging in primates is to undertake outreach work aimed at potential aid in diagnosis and prognosis in a variety of brain disorders. High-resolution mapping of the whole brain in nonhuman and human primates allows us to apply and develop a wide range of simulation and prediction algorithms to statistically identify the core features of mental disorders, which can further help to evaluate therapeutic outcomes of clinical interventional treatments. We are dedicated to collecting a large sample of comparable human-monkey imaging datasets, developing specialized machine learning algorithms that are applicable to brain connectomics for improved understanding of the diseases and guidance to new treatment means.