Identifying damage to the brain’s superhighway

November 18, 2016
Tracy Gale
College of Health and Human Performance

University of Florida researchers have developed a template showing the brain’s superhighways and how they are impacted by a stroke. The brain images required to create the template were processed on HiPerGator, UF's supercomputer.

“We’re interested in the structure of the brain after a stroke,” said Stephen Coombes, assistant professor of applied physiology and kinesiology, who developed the template with post-doctoral research associate Derek Archer. “Collecting and analyzing images of brains from people that haven’t experienced a stroke helps us track the different motor pathways in the brain; sort of a ‘Google Maps’ for the brain’s corticospinal tract.”

The benefits of mapping the corticospinal tract — it’s a superhighway for movement — can have a significant impact to the care and recovery of stroke patients. 

“Knowing which part of the tract is damaged may be extremely helpful in predicting recovery after stroke,” Coombes said. “Physical therapists can also use this information to prescribe more individualized rehabilitation exercises.”

Utilizing 3,000 HiPerGator cores, the team's imaging needs were completed in three months. Without HiPerGator’s processing power, analyzing the data on a single computer would have taken 42 years of processing time. For more information about Coombes’s and Archer’s work on the corticospinal tract template and its applied use capabilities, visit the Laboratory for Rehabilitation Neuroscience web page.

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