EPFL, Geneve, Switzerland

Non-invasive exploration of the human brain in health and disease

CV: Prof. Richard Frackowiak studied at Cambridge University as head of the Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois in 2015. Previously, he served as Professor of Cognitive Neurology at University College London, Director of the Department of Cognitive Studies at the Ecole Normale Superieure, Paris and Vice-Provost of UCL. He founded the Wellcome Department of Imaging Neuroscience in 1994. A pioneer of human brain imaging research, he has investigated human brain structure-function relationships in health and disease. He headed up the medical informatics platform of “The Human Brain Project” His papers are highly cited (H-index Google 209).

Abstract: Organisationally, the human brain is massively redundant. When brain systems are damaged, or when reinforced by learning, they reorganise at the level of synaptic connection strength, or by selection of new preferred connections between cortical regions. In adults, up to 50% of brain cell loss can be accommodated, if gradual, with little obvious effect on clinically observed features. This fact generates hypotheses of potential clinical interest. Can we monitor these mechanisms or their effects precisely? Can they be enhanced or modulated? What are the implications after the appearance of symptoms and for any potential recovery?

Clinical scientists deploy novel non-invasive functional imaging techniques to examine brain reorganisation and to detect pre-clinical neuronal loss. MR images are now analysed with artificial intelligence techniques in a standard anatomical space making integration with clinical and biological data possible. The eventual clinical ambition is to link genetic and proteomic levels of brain organisation with rules that govern the cellular segregation of protein expression. From protein expression rules that determine cellular morphology should predict connectivity and so on, until a constructive process of predictive simulation discovers the mechanisms of emergent behaviours.

Frackowiak RSJ, Markram H. (2015) The future of human cerebral cartography: a novel approach. Phil.Trans. R. Soc. B 370: 20-32.