Dr. Abbas Sadikot,
Professor, Montreal Neurological Institute,
McGill University
Porridge for Parkinson’s (Toronto)
Pilot Project Grant: $44,722

Creation of a Novel Computerized MRI-Integrated 3-D Histochemical Atlas of Parkinson’s Disease Brain

Surgeons can transform the life of a Parkinson’s patient with procedures conducted in key parts of the brain affected by this disease. The results can often minimize or eliminate tremors, and restore an individual’s control over the movement of limbs.

To increase the chances of such success, surgeons would like to know in advance precisely where in the brain they should operate. However, this information can be difficult to obtain. Even well-established technology such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) does not reveal the necessary detail to manipulate these intricate brain structures.

Dr. Abbas Sadikot, a neurosurgeon with the Montreal Neurological Institute, proposes the development of a more comprehensive outline for these structures, a higher resolution reference image that could be superimposed on the MRI scan of a patient’s brain. This tool would serve the same function as the common atlas, a map that helps us find the way to unfamiliar places.

“It’s quite urgent to have such an atlas, which does not exist today,” says Sadikot.

To create this image, Sadikot and his colleagues work with brains donated for research purposes. They physically locate the various parts of this organ and record the information to compose the atlas. This work has taken on even more significance through the generous donation of a brain from someone who had Parkinson’s disease.

“We know that the structure of the brains of Parkinson’s patients changes in a very specific manner based on the deterioration or loss of nerve cells,” explains Sadikot. Incorporating these changes will add to the accuracy of the atlas.

Sadikot’s interest in this project was spawned by his first-hand experience of how much relief surgery can provide from the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. This same experience also showed him how difficult it was to conduct the surgery without sufficient imagery, and he is grateful for the support to develop an atlas that will overcome this problem.

“In order to get the project moving, I have to have this initial funding source,” he says.