New Open-Source Platform will Allow Researchers to Leverage Brain MRI Data in Unprecedented Ways

New York, NY, February 23, 2017 – Child Mind Institute researchers have developed Mindboggle, a powerful, new tool for studying the detailed shape of brain structures that will help open the door to the potential discovery of brain-based biomarkers to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. In a new study published today in PLoS Computational Biology, the Child Mind Institute’s Dr. Arno Klein and colleagues present data from their evaluation and testing of Mindboggle, using the most extensive and precisely labeled set of publicly available brain images in the world. Their proof-of-concept results reveal measurable brain-based differences correlated with the presence of Alzheimer’s, suggesting the possibility of morphometry-based clinical evaluations of risk for that and other brain-based diseases, including psychiatric disorders. The study is the largest shape analysis of human brains ever conducted.

Mindboggle (http://mindboggle.info) is an open source brain morphometry platform that takes in preprocessed T1-weighted MRI data and outputs volume, surface, and tabular data containing label, feature, and shape information for further analysis. The article in PLoS Computational Biology documents the software and demonstrates its use in studies of shape variation in the brains of people with brain-based disease and healthy controls.

Brain image morphometry shows great potential for providing much-needed biological markers for diagnosing, tracking, and predicting the progression of mental health disorders. More subtle shape measures may provide more sensitive and specific biomarkers, and Mindboggle computes a variety of measures including area, volume, thickness, curvature, depth, Laplace-Beltrami spectra and Zernike moments. Mindboggle’s algorithms were compared against the current state-of-the-art for brain morphometry. All data, code, and results are publicly available.

Mindboggle was developed by a team led by Dr. Klein, research scientist and director of the Innovative Technologies Lab at the Child Mind Institute.

“The scientific community has demonstrated the clinical potential of brain imaging to predict onset, relapse, and recovery for different psychiatric conditions, as well as response to drug treatment,” says Dr. Klein. “But there is still a dearth of biomarkers we need to develop reliable tests for mental health disorders. That is why we spent so much time developing Mindboggle and applying it to large datasets— so that it can help reveal the range of variation of human brain anatomy and when individuals are outside of this range, as in psychiatric disorders.”

“This study provides a potentially revolutionary tool,” said Harold S. Koplewicz, MD, founding president of the Child Mind Institute. “And it helps to define a direction for future imaging research as we work towards the holy grail of biological psychiatry — objective diagnosis through tests, including brain imaging.”

About the Child Mind Institute

The Child Mind Institute is an independent, national nonprofit dedicated to transforming the lives of children and families struggling with mental health and learning disorders. Our teams work every day to deliver the highest standards of care, advance the science of the developing brain, and empower parents, professionals and policymakers to support children when and where they need it most. Together with our supporters, we’re helping children reach their full potential in school and in life. We share all of our resources freely and do not accept any funding from the pharmaceutical industry. Learn more at childmind.org.