Functional ultrasound imaging: an innovative technology for imaging brain activity
Alan Urban, PhD
Assistant professor, Department of Neurosciences, KU Leuven
R&D of the next generation functional ultrasound imaging
The main objective of our multidisciplinary team is to develop the next generation of functional ultrasound imaging (fUSi) technology having 3 words in mind: faster, smaller, cheaper.
fUSi emerges nowadays as a breakthrough modality based on Doppler ultrasound and is capable of recording in real-time activity over the entire brain at unprecedented spatial and temporal resolution for such volumes (100 µm3 voxel size, 100 ms). The fUSi technology offers high sensitivity and reproducibility that is required by modern neuroscience research in chronic and behaving animal models.
In collaboration with imec and several industrial partners, our team is developing the most versatile and costless ultrasound on silicon chip device on the market offering advanced 4D capabilities (3D in time) for preclinical and clinical research. Hence, by combining Micromachined Ultrasound Transducer (MUT) with high channels counts, wide bandwidth, high efficiency and ASIC technologies for real-time image processing and artificial intelligence analysis, we are extending the range of application for fUS imaging.
Our scientific interests
Our team is interested in system neuroscience to understand the basic principles of brain organization, dynamics and function across a hierarchy of spatial and temporal scales. We are evaluating the fUSi capabilities for deciphering the mechanisms of neurovascular coupling, multi sensory integration and decision making. We are also studying the impact on brain function of several brain pathologies including Alzheimer Disease, stroke and glioma.
Our activities include translational research toward the use of fUSi in clinics with 2 main applications: i) non invasive brain mapping in newborns and ii) intra-operative guidance during neurosurgery in adults.
The fUSi technology hold great potential. But like for any innovative modality, fUSi hardware/software development and new data analysis must be accompanied by specialists of the field. Moreover, we believe that it is impossible to develop appropriate brain imaging technologies without being a pioneer in neuroscience research because to understand the brain we need more than physics. Therefore, our team unifies multidisciplinary engineers, neuroscientists and medical doctors to solve technical challenges for improving fUSi in a relevant way for the neuroscience community.
We are performing active neuroscience research within our laboratory and with collaborators to elucidate novel brain circuits and dynamics. All together, we combine expertize in neuroscience, biology, medicine, physics, acoustics, mathematics, electronics, programming and more.
We aim to expand the fUSi technology and we are currently collaborating with a growing network of scientists in academic, clinic and industry located in Belgium and abroad (EU, UK and USA). It currently represents an active “fUSi community” of more than 25 principal investigators. We aim at establishing direct relationships with stakeholders, including patient associations and authorities towards an efficient transfer of our technologies to the market.
Some of our partners are presented below: