Could you tell us a bit about you and your work?
After studying Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuropsychology in Rome I started my PhD in Amsterdam as part of the EPAD project. My work within EPAD consists in analysing neuroimaging outcomes to first create a shared and publicly available dataset for internal and external researchers and second extract useful information about brain organization in preclinical Alzheimer’s disease. As a researcher, I’m particularly interested in studying brain network abnormalities through different MRI sequences and investigate how these relate to Alzheimer’s dementia.
You are a member of the EPAD Imaging Scientific Advisory Group (iSAG). Could you please tell us more about this group, its work and outcomes?
EPAD iSAG is a group of expert researchers in the field of neuroimaging which I have the luck of being part. The first goal we pursue in our work is the creation of a standardise pipeline for pre-processing and quality control of EPAD MRI data. This semi-automated pipeline will deal with the high diversity and variability of the EPAD cohort and deliver to researchers an high-quality imaging dataset. Furthermore, we aim for the identification of changes in brain structural and functional organisation due to the early development of Alzheimer’s disease.
How VUmc is contributing to facilitate the EPAD imaging data access?
At the VUmc, we work on setting up and maintaining the access to the EPAD xNAT platform: the online platform to access EPAD imaging data. When a data request is accepted by the EPAD committee, we provide researchers with credentials to access the system and support on the possible problems they can encounter. Moreover, we’re working on creating numeric derivatives describing brain morphology and function that can directly be used by researchers with no experience with MRI processing.
What are the most prominent challenges you see in Alzheimer’s disease research?
The creation of disease-specific therapies, still too few, is the challenge of our time. To date, diagnosed people have low expectation and bleak prognosis with no real solution. Disease onset, progression and spreading through the brain are still poorly known processes. With EPAD and in my future works we hope to bring evidence from different research fields together to help develop an accurate and unified model of Alzheimer’s disease progression that will have an impact on clinical and pharmacological trials. My hope is that research and clinical world will start collaborating more closely making sure to progress together toward an unique goal.