Researchers of the Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV) and the National Centre for Scientific Research in France (CNRS, in French) have developed VolBrain (volbrain.upv.es), a new free, online platform able to automatically, quickly and precisely analyse the images from a magnetic resonance of the brain.
Thus, VolBrain enables worldwide scientists to obtain key cerebral information in order to advance in the research on neural pathologies. In the three months it has been operating, it has processed more than 1500 cases from universities, research centres, clinics and hospitals from the five continents. Today, more than 30 cases per day are processed, though the system has the capacity to process up to 500.
VolBrain provides information about the tissue volumes in the intracranial cavity (ICC) (that is, CSF, GM and WM), as well as some macroscopic areas such as the cerebral hemispheres, the cerebellum and the brain stem. It also provides the segmentation of subcortical structures, which is of major importance in neurology. Thus, it incorporates a set of IT tools, developed by researchers of the UPV and the CNRS, able to exhaustively and precisely analyse the cerebral volumetry.
"VolBrain can measure structures such as the hippocampus or the tonsils, very important in the development of diseases such as Alzheimer's. A symptom of this pathology lies in a lower than average hippocampus volume. Therefore, since volBrain provides very important information in order to measure cerebral atrophies, it could help in the diagnosis of diseases such as Alzheimer's", says José Vicente Manjón, researcher at the ITACA Institute of the Universitat Politècnica de València.
The benefits of VolBrain include easy use and a quick analysis capacity, unlike other similar systems existing on the market. "The user must always send a compressed file from the web. The information reaches our cluster -which incorporates seven powerful computers- and, within 10 minutes, the system e-mails a detailed report with the results of the segmentation and the volumes processed. Similar systems that currently exist take 24 hours to give this information", explains Manjón.
In addition, every case analysed is compared with a database that includes the volumetry of 50 brains that the researchers of the Universitat Politècnica de València and the National Centre for Scientific Research of France manually labelled.
"We use resemblances to label and measure the volumes of a new case. In addition, if users include the patient's age and sex, the system allows them to visualize whether the analysed case is within the common parameters related to these variables or not ", explains José Vicente Manjón. Finally, VolBrain sends a screen shot of the measurement process with the report to allow users to visualize the segmentation of the cerebral structures.
The researchers of the UPV and the CNRS will present VolBrain in the international conference Human Brain Mapping, the most important neuroimaging meeting in the world, which will be held next July in Honolulu. In addition, they have been published in the journal Magnetic Resonance Imaging.