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Exploring the Formation and Adaptation of the Brain Connectome (FABRIC)
Start date: Aug 1, 2013, End date: Jul 31, 2015 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Endeavors to explicate the architecture and functional capacities of the human brain confront its vast complexity most pronouncedly when describing the interactions and interconnections of its neuronal processing units. Efforts in this direction gave rise to the notion of connectomics, research investigating large-scale interactions mediated by axonal fibers (structural connections) or characterized by causality or co-activation of distributed domains (functional connections). The processes that shape the connectome into its mature form or the mechanisms that underlie the dynamics of re-organization during disease are yet poorly understood. They are important for both basic research and in a clinical context. The aim of the proposed project is to construct and utilize an image processing framework for studying the dynamically shaping structural and functional brain networks. The project will focus two phenomena that offer insights into related mechanisms from different perspectives: the developing brain during in utero maturation and the re-organizing brain during adaptive processes. The project FABRIC will build on recent advances in fetal functional magnetic resonance imaging techniques including the breakthrough in observing resting state networks in fetuses. Diffusion tractography will be utilized to explore the emergence of large-scale anatomical pathways that presumably render information exchange channels for the forming of functional activity. These observations will be integrated into a temporal atlas of fetal connectome development. In the clinical setting, we will investigate the influence of fetal neurodevelopmental diseases and adult brain tumors on the structural and functional network topology. Ultimately the project will result in insights into the relationship of functional and structural connectivity during development and re-organization, providing for surrogate markers for clinical evaluation, function loss, and neurodevelopmental diseases.
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