The next speaker in the UCSD Neuroscience Seminar Series (4pm on Tuesday, 1/7/2014 in the CNCB) will be Arthur Toga. His talked, titled “The Informatics of Brain Mapping”, will emphasize the importance of Big Data and the use of multi-site neuroimaging projects to characterize the structural and functional changes in the human brain from clinical disease. Dr. Toga leads the Laboratory of Neuroimaging (LONI), a large national resource for neuroimaging data, atlases, analysis routines, and collaborative work on clinical disease.

The Alzheimer’s Diseases Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) is one example of this Big Data approach to human clinical neuroscience. Fifty-seven different sites contribute data to the LONI repository, from cognitive tests to structural MRI scans to genetic and biochemical markers from over 800 subjects with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). These data have been used to predict progressive atrophy and the transition for mild impairment to AD. Both decreased hippocampal volume and a more expansive pattern of gray matter loss predicted transition to AD. Moreover, others in the ADNI group found that both the well-known APOE4 allele and the GRIN2b allele contributed to MRI atrophy (summarized in Toga 2012).


The data flow from multiple data acquisition sites to the archive and processing core at the Laboratory for Neuroimaging led by Dr. Arthur Toga. From Toga 2012.

I visited LONI at UCLA last spring, before they moved to USC this past fall. The huge facility, complete with a supercomputer adorned with blinking LED lights, walls plastered with journal covers designed by the in-house graphics team, a software team devoted to data storage and pre-processing, embodies their big collaborative approach to understanding human clinical neuroscience. In addition to projects on Alzheimer’s, autism, and schizophrenia, the lab is building infrastructure and technology to handle such large datasets and to allow researchers from all over the world to access and analyze them (Van Horn & Toga, 2009). I’ll end with some beautiful examples of their visualization software.


Color-coded white matter tracts (Randy Buckner & Bruce Rosen with the Visualization Group at LONI).


A visualization of white matter growth in autistic and control children. Carlos Mena, LONI


Toga, A.W. 2012. The clinical value of large neuroimaging data sets in Alzheimer’s Disease. Neuroimaging Clin. N. Am. 22: 107-118.

Van Horn, J.D., Toga, A.W. 2009. Multi-site neuroimaging trials. Curr. Opin. Neurol. 22: 370-378.


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