Fiber tracking is an advanced MRI-based non-invasive imaging technique used to study the intrinsic structure and connectivity of the living human brain, both in normal subjects and neurosurgery/neurology patients.
The Fiber Tractography Lab—under the direction of Fang-Cheng (Frank) Yeh, MD, PhD—is focused on the application of fiber tracking for presurgical planning and intraoperative navigation to facilitate brain function preservation and improve resection rates in patients with complex brain lesions. Dr. Yeh developed DSI Studio and applied it to study the structure and connectivity of the fiber tracts forming the human brain, and their structural alteration in patients with brain tumors, vascular lesions, stroke, and neurodegenerative diseases.
These are the main areas of research:
Presurgical Assessment of Fiber Tracts and Surgical Planning
Fiber tracking provides a superior presurgical evaluation of the fiber tracts for patients with complex brain lesions, including low grade and high-grade gliomas. Presurgical studies are built upon precise and accurate neuroanatomical knowledge, which allows doctors to reconstruct perilesional or intralesional fiber tracts, design the less invasive trajectory into the target lesion, and apply more effectively intraoperative electrical mapping techniques for maximal and safe tumor resection in eloquent cortical and subcortical regions.
Our clinical experience applying fiber tracking has been reported in Neurosurgery, Journal of Neurosurgery, and Neuro-oncology among others. The lab is actively investigating its potential for not only presurgical planning and intraoperative navigation, but also for neurostructural damage assessment, estimation of postsurgical neural pathways damage and recovery, and tracking of postsurgical changes and responses to rehabilitation therapy.
Fiber Tract Integrity and Damage Progression in Neurological Disorders
Researchers are currently studying patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Huntington’s disease, aiming to obtain quantifiable measures of white matter tract integrity that can be correlated with the speed of disease progression and with clinical measures. The ultimate goal is to find an accurate biomarker of the disease that can be monitored and serve as a reference for treatment response.
Mapping Normative Brain Connections Using Fiber Tracking
Studies in the Fiber Tractography Lab have contributed to elucidate the structure, connectivity, and potential functional role of the major fiber pathways and how they give rise to brain functions. Innovative studies using data from the Human Connectome Project are being completed to construct population-based tractography atlases.