Lesions affecting the visual pathways in the human brain are common and may cause reduced visual acuity or visual field defects, either directly or as a result of surgery. These pathways can be visualised using tractography. The procedure is based on a combination of a magnetic resonance imaging technique known as diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and computer-based image analysis.
Within the research centre MedTech West we are developing novel DTI-based software tools for visualising and quantitatively characterising the visual pathways. The aim is to provide a suite of tools for use in neurosurgical planning.
Our approach involves:
- Developing a tractography method that yields the most anatomically accurate demonstration of the visual pathways. This is assessed by comparing the tractography from healthy controls to pathways in a histological atlas that have been transferred to a standard magnetic resonance image of the brain (MNI brain atlas).
- Developing/evaluating DTI and tractography features that quantitatively characterise the pathways.
- Developing/evaluating classifiers, based on the features in (ii), for detecting early signs of injury to the visual pathways, distinguishing between compression and infiltration of the pathways by a tumour, and predicting visual function.
The resulting DTI tools offer the possibility for improved neurosurgical planning with correspondingly better patient outcomes.