Nivedita Ravi is a Sophomore, with joint Concentrator in Neuroscience and Music. She worked under the mentorship of Dr. Anastasia Yendiki, Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Mass General Hospital on the topographical organization of the superior longitudinal fasciculus during the summer of 2018.
The human brain remains an enigma among the scientific community. On a macroscopic level, scientists attempt to understand the psychological and behavioral aspects of the mind, and on a microscopic level, research focuses on the associations between human actions and the structure of the brain itself. The brain is composed of neurons that communicate via signal transmission. The white matter of the brain consists of bundles of axons that span lobes of the brain; white matter tracts, focused projections of neuronal axons, tend to correlate with specific functions, such as speech. These connections can be reconstructed through tractography, a technique that uses diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging (dMRI) data to visualize white matter tracts in the brain. In this project, I focused on a specific white matter connection: the Superior Longitudinal Fasciculus (SLF). The SLF is composed of three subcomponents, and there exists a substantial debate regarding the structure of the uppermost subcomponent (SLF I). This summer, I comprehensively investigated the anatomical features of the SLF and dedicated particular attention to the controversial findings on the SLF I trajectory in the human brain. Then, I wrote a protocol to virtually dissect the SLF in the human brain, which was supported by a literature review and my personal experience that I acquired during the internship. The data used to produce the tractography files are part the Human Connectome Project database, and Trackvis was the software used to facilitate the visualization and virtual dissections of tractography data.
My summer experience working with Dr. Yendiki’s lab has shaped my approach to neuroscientific research and thinking. Dr. Chiara Maffei, a postdoctoral researcher in the lab, guided my learning and was an excellent mentor throughout the summer. With a newfound understanding and appreciation for neuroanatomy, I have become increasingly interested in which neural networks are associated specific cognitive functions, and I am better prepared to understand cutting-edge research on these topics, much of which incorporates fMRI research techniques. Working in the Lab for Computational Neuroimaging has inspired and prepared me to continue using neuroimaging methods in future research.