Eli  Gibson

Alumni, Medical Image Analysis Lab

B.A.Sc. Simon Fraser University, 2006

TASC 9400



Research Interests

MR Neurography

Nerves run throughout the human body from the soles of the feet to the skin of the scalp. Consequently, the study of nerves has an incredible array of important aspects, from measuring changes in the brain associated with diseases, to tracking the course of peripheral nerves in the limbs. In the SFU Medical Image Analysis Lab (MIAL), we combine powerful medical scans with computational tools to study the shapes and courses of nerves throughout the body, a field called MR Neurography. Since its development, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has proven to be a valuable medical scan, allowing non-invasive in vivo imaging, while producing images with strong contrast between many soft tissues. MRI is a flexible imaging technique that can be adapted to reveal a variety of tissue properties of different tissues.

MR Neurography in the Central Nervous System

As many neurodegenerative diseases progress, they change the shape of the brain. The ability to identify these changes may lead to early, or differential diagnoses that can improve treatments. For example, Alzheimer's Disease is the most common cause of dementia in western countries, and no reliable treatments to reverse or slow down dementia. Vascular dementia is the second most common cause of dementia, and while there are no treatments to reverse dementia, early aggressive stroke prevention treatments may slow the onset of dementia, with many accompanying side effect. Identifying anatomical differences between Vascular Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease would allow patients with Alzheimer's to avoid the side effects of an ineffective Vascular Dementia treatment. The MIAL develops and evaluates tools for the measurement of brain changes. One component of the MR neurography work performed in the MIAL uses novel and existing techniques for measuring cortical thickness to analyze neurodegenerative diseases. Cortical thickness is a measure of brain shape that has been found to change in some neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's Disease, AIDS, and Parkinson's Disease. However, accurately and robustly measuring thickness, although seemingly trivial, is an difficult task. There is no commonly accepted definition of thickness, making accurate measurement ill-defined. Furthermore, the robustness of thickness measurement techniques to changes in nearby tissues has not been well studied. In the MIAL, we are pushing forward the development and evaluation of these measurement techniques, and their application to disease analysis using large longitudinal and cross-sections MRI studies. Other aspects of the MR neurography work on the central nervous system performed in the MIAL can be found here: 1, 2, 3.

MR Neurography in the Peripheral Nervous System

While it has received less attention than the central nervous system, peripheral nerve research is important to the diagnosis and treatment of many injuries, as well as to our understanding of the human body. MR Neurography has played a significant role in diagnosis of nerve lesions and other injuries. T1-weighted scans can differentiate between nerve tissue and fat, and between muscle tissue and fat. T2-weighted scans can differentiate between uninjured nerves and acutely injured nerves (characterized by an influx of fluid into the nerve). Recent work from the MIAL has yielded scans that can differentiate between muscle tissue and uninjured nerves as well. MR Neurography in the MIAL focuses on the sciatic nerve. The thickest peripheral nerve in the body, the sciatic runs from the brachial plexus down through the thigh. The sciatic nerve consists of several smaller nerves in a common epineural sheath, including the thigh nerves that separate in the upper thigh, and the tibial and common peroneal nerve that bifurcate in the lower thigh. The MIAL contributes to both the development of MRI protocols for neurography as well as the computational analysis of the MR data. Shown at right is a 3D reconstruction of the thigh derived from protocols developed in part at the MIAL. This work has been done in collaboration with Dr. Andy Hoffer, and the UBC MRI Research Centre.

Research Projects

Quantitative Imaging of Peripheral Nerves
MR Neurography of the Sciatic Nerve
Robust Cortical Thickness Measurement from MRI
Surface And VOlumetric Registration (SAVOR)

Selected Publications

Estimation of Nerve Dimensions from MRI of the Human Thigh.
September 23, 2008
J.A. Hoffer, E. Gibson, B. Mädler, M.F. Beg. Estimation of Nerve Dimensions from MRI of the Human Thigh. Int’l. Functional Electrical Stimulation Soc., 13th Ann. Conf., Freiburg, Germany, Sept. 2008.

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