The Virtual Brain

Our vision:

A brain-health decision system.

The Virtual Brain produces virtual EEG, MEG and BOLD signals comparable to the same scanner readings of a real brain – both in quality and quantity as well as on multiple, realistic time-scales and anatomically accurate locations.

This is achieved through a biologically realistic connectivity matrix and by modeling The Virtual Brain's 3D voxels within a realistic skull shape. You can even watch, zoom and rotate The Virtual Brain in 3D while performing these scans – in a browser and in real-time.

Dynamically comparing scanner results from the real and virtual brain and across imaging modalities paints a bright vision of revolutionary applications as well as a clear pathway to constant future enhancements:

  • The brain of a real patient can be scanned and subsequently will be modeled with The Virtual Brain by uploading the scanner results.
  • Vice versa, the virtualized brain can be scanned and the readings compared back to the patient's in order to confirm the desired accuracy of the model.
  • New modeling/network hypotheses can be applied to The Virtual Brain and realistically tested through virtual scans and comparison with experimental data.
  • One could even imagine "browsing" through a shelf of different virtual brains until the best match for preset experimental data is found.

The future: A brain-health decision system

Driven by the continuing collection and normalization of clinical data within The Virtual Brain, the simulation will get more and more refined. The combination with the important feedback-loop of virtual therapy proposals and their subsequent experimental validation leads toward a compelling vision:

Patients suffering from a brain-related disease/injury will be thoroughly scanned, collecting individual EEG, MEG and BOLD data. Complemented with a detailed demographic, genetic and physiological anamnesis, the doctor uploads this data to The Virtual Brain.

Evaluating the bespoken simulation, the doctor will be able to judge the patient‘s brain responses to different therapy approaches – all safely within a virtual framework.

Active research: Epilepsy

Epilepsy presents unique insights and learning experiences about the human brain's bearing with grave network disturbances, respectively seizures.

Healing epilepsy is still a puzzle, where some pharmaceuticals only mitigate the effects. Surgical interventions are typically limited to focal epilepsy and largely fail to predict the behavioral after-effects of a resection or atrophy.

TVB scientists in Marseille and Toronto are helping here by providing their exquisite expertise and extensive archive of epilepsy studies (longitudinal as well as cross-sectional). These cover state-of-the-art neuro-imaging data (scalp and intracranial) and extensive behavioral characterization.

The Virtual Brain uses the available epilepsy data to further two scientific topics:

  • Better understanding of the brain's fundamental mechanisms of structure/function relationships and effectively refine the simulation.
  • Aggregation of pre-/post-surgery differences to ultimately predict the behavioral effects of any incision in a given brain region.

Active research: Stroke

Strokes still rank as the third-highest cause of death in the western world. Even when survived, strokes are largely responsible for mild to severe behavioral deficits, often resulting in years of treatment, which in itself isn’t understood very well.

The Virtual Brain looks into a vast array of longitudinal and cross-sectional data of several hundred stroke patients from theTVB facilities in Berlin, London, Toronto and Irvine. These provide profound insight into the effects of clearly located lesions on the overall functionality and health of the human's brain.

Evaluating the ramifications of a stroke or a lesion gained by external injury is the prime example of deciphering how a really complex networks reacts to the isolated failure of some nodes – and the route to its recovery when analyzing post-treatment data.