By Sidney Taiko Sheehan
2021 at the USC Mark and Mary Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute (USC INI), led by Director Arthur W. Toga, PhD, saw the realization of numerous innovations that advance its core mission: answering urgent questions about the human brain across the lifespan in both health and disease. Part of the Keck School of Medicine of USC, USC INI continues to produce research delving even deeper into Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, epilepsy, and more, while prioritizing the inclusion of understudied populations to reduce health disparities.
The USC INI team is advancing the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to examine how Alzheimer’s disease progresses, how exposure to toxins in the environment can affect brain health and development, what causes epileptic seizures, and more. One example includes the INI’s Neural Plasticity and Neurorehabilitation Laboratory (NPNL), which created one of the world’s largest open-source datasets of MRI scans from stroke patients, then used machine learning to identify lesions. In 2021, INI faculty members began work on numerous new projects funded by NIH, the BRAIN Initiative, and several private foundations.
USC INI also continues to pave the way into research on perivascular spaces (PVS), fluid-filled regions in the brain that clear waste and toxins, and recorded new findings in 2021 related to PVS in Parkinson’s disease and in early cognitive decline.
USC INI uses its immense repository of data to collaborate on projects across the globe. As a leader in informatics, the team applies sophisticated computational tools paired with progressive methods of visualization to gain new insights from our wealth of data. This year, they built on past efforts by partnering with two other institutions on a $31.7M grant from NIH for the Alzheimer’s Disease Sequencing Project Phenotype Harmonization Consortium. This is just one new example of their largescale collaborative projects that will lead to further discovery with the potential to positively impact clinical care.
The INI’s 2021 Annual Report showcases details on recent innovations and some of their most promising findings from this past year. We invite you to view an interactive and animated version online here.