Brain Images of Normal Subjects

General Information

What is our imagebank designed to do?

The Brain Images of Normal Subjects (BRAINS) Imagebank is designed to provide detailed structural brain imaging data of healthy individuals across the human life-course. The imagebank is a searchable database of integrated data sets already collected as part of research studies which include healthy (or control) subjects. New data will be added as they become available. These studies include detailed MRI using a range of sequences, and associated data, e.g. pregnancy details (for neonatal data), demographic details, current and prior socioeconomic status, education, health, medication use and cognitive tests. We are initially focussing on collating data from imaging studies at the extremes of life (neonatal period and old age) where least data are available in other databanks and there is most variability in brain structure (Serag, A. et al., 2012; Sowell, E.R. et al., 2003, Dickie, D.A., 2012a, Dickie et al., 2015), but our imagebank includes subjects of all ages.

The definition of ‘normal’ is not simple and therefore this imagebank can be searched by associated data such as gestational age at birth, blood pressure, medications and other risk factors. For example, brain structure in infancy is commonly altered in association with preterm birth, but not all preterm infants develop impairment, which leaves uncertainties about ‘normal’ in early life (Boardman, J.P. et al., 2007 & 2010). Hypertension is so prevalent in older people that it can be regarded as normal, but some investigators may wish to study participants with blood pressure within a certain range, and/or by imaging parameters such as the degree of atrophy or white matter lesions, that can vary widely in normal people with age.

The imagebank will be expanded in the future to include subjects from other geographical locations, and potentially other sequence types, e.g. STI, fMRI.

The availability of data including clinically relevant MRI sequences from healthy volunteers across the life-course - linked with related phenotypical, demographic and cognitive measures - without diagnosed disease is an essential resource:

  1. as a reference atlas, for interpretation of brain images in clinical diagnosis, such as having access to healthy subject reference images closely matched to a patient’s scan and linked data (e.g. hypertension, diabetes), to improve diagnostic accuracy (Farrell, C. et al., 2009), and
  2. for the biomedical research community to develop new methods to detect brain pathology and associated clinical manifestations, such as early markers of neurodevelopmental impairment or dementia, and the use of ‘normal’ images as controls in imaging studies, without requiring the recruitment and retention of new subjects

We will build and share developmental ranked atlases across the life-course, similar to child growth charts, but for the brain (Dickie, D.A., et al., 2013). Images and associated data can also be used as control ‘subjects’ reducing additional data collection for research studies. The imagebank will provide multiple data sets that can be used to test the accuracy and reproducibility of image processing methods and algorithms, in clinical and research settings. It will aid in determining early markers of disease by defining boundaries of normality to provide more precise estimates of disease risk.

The BRAINS Imagebank is hosted by the Brain Research Imaging Centre at Edinburgh University, Scotland, UK on behalf of a Steering Committee which includes the PIs of the original studies, experts in ethics, law and governance, and lay representatives. The BRAINS data sets are from previously funded and ongoing studies by members of the Scottish Imaging Network, A Platform for Scientific Excellence (SINAPSE), namely the universities of Aberdeen, Glasgow, Dundee, St Andrews, Stirling, and Edinburgh. It is funded by the Brain Research Imaging Centre at Edinburgh University, SINAPSE , BBSRC Sparking impact, and Edinburgh & Lothians Health Foundation, ELHF,