Women's Healthy Brain

The Women's Healthy Brain Project is the world's first comprehensive, multimodal, integrative assessment of brain status as it relates to cognition, language, and genetics across the lifespan.

Background: The structure, function, and chemistry of the brain can be assessed noninvasively by existing technologies. For example structural MRI (
Structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging (sMRI)

Performed to assess gray-matter volume. The data are acquired using a Philips 3T Achieva XL magnet with a SENSE 8 channel head coil. Approximately 500,000 voxels per brain are analyzed. In the first analysis, the volume of about 100 separate brain regions is calculated using FreeSurfer software (www.surfer.nmr.mgh.harvard. edu). This provides a coarse-grain, volumetric analysis of areas of the brain. In the second analysis, called voxel-based morphometry, the density of each voxel is assessed for a fine-grain analysis of each area.5 Typically, gray-matter volume decreases with age but at rates that are different for different people, for different areas of the brain, and for men and women. In that sense, one can talk about "gray-matter age" versus chronological age. A person may be 68 years old but have the gray-matter volume of a 50-year-old. Defining brain age based on measurements (as contrasted with chronological age) is a pervasive theme in this project.
) for high resolution structural analysis, functional MRI (
Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)

A functional neuroimaging procedure using MRI technology that measures brain activity by detecting changes associated with blood flow. This technique relies on the fact that cerebral blood flow and neuronal activation are coupled. When an area of the brain is in use, blood flow to that region also increases.[citation needed] The primary form of fMRI uses the blood-oxygen-level dependent (BOLD) contrast, discovered by Seiji Ogawa. This is a type of specialized brain and body scan used to map neural activity in the brain or spinal cord of humans or other animals by imaging the change in blood flow (hemodynamic response) related to energy use by brain cells. Since the early 1990s, fMRI has come to dominate brain mapping research because it does not require people to undergo shots, surgery, or to ingest substances, or be exposed to ionising radiation, etc.
) for functional connectivity,
Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy

Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS)

Used to roughly assess neuron health. Typically, we consider the ratios of N-acetyl aspartate, glutamine+glutamate, and choline over creatine.
for brain chemistry, diffusion MRI (
Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging (dMRI)

The input for tractography algorithms used for the reconstruction of the complex axonal fiber architecture so as to infer 'structural connectivity' between gray matter regions. In dMRI, a critically important goal is to estimate the orientation of white matter fiber bundles as accurately as possible, especially in regions where multiple fiber bundles intersect one another at various angles or where a fiber bundle bends or fans out and splits into multiple trajectories. Improving signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) by minimizing T2 decay during the diffusion encoding period, and accelerating the data acquisition rate without significantly impacting SNR (i.e. increasing SNR per unit time of data acquisition) are key to obtaining more informative dMRI data for tractography analysis.
) for anatomical connectivity and white matter integrity, and

Magnetoencephalography (MEG)

A noninvasive technique that detects magnetic fields above the surface of the head produced by postsynaptic potentials in the brain.
for fine grain measure of neural communication. In addition, several types of examination can be used to assess whole brain output such as neurological exams, neuropsychological exams, cognitive assessments, and structured interviews and questionnaires to determine mental health status.

  • Create an integrative, cross-sectional and longitudinal database of brain status derived from measurements of brain structure, function, and chemistry.
  • Acquire brain data from healthy volunteers.
  • Organize key measurements into a comprehensive database.
  • Correlate brain status with genetic makeup, cognitive function, and language abilities.
  • Validate results using the longitudinal data.
  • Forecast future brain status and disease based on current and longitudinal measurements.
  • Guide health care providers toward new interventions and evaluate interventions as they develop.

Read about the history of the Women's Healthy Brain Project here:

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