Project Title:

Optimization and harmonization of magnetic resonance (MRI) protocols in neuroimaging multi-site studies (Phase 1 and 2)


Fondazione Istituto Neurologico Carlo Besta

Project Manager:

Dr. Maria Grazia Bruzzone

The role of neuroimaging techniques is fundamental in clinical and preclinical research. Only national and international network initiatives can truly lead to the generalization of the results and the adoption of new techniques in the personalized medicine. These studies allow the acquisition of large data samples (“BIG-DATA”) that will allow in the near future quantitative neuroimaging for a personalized medicine.

Diffusion weighted and tractography images for the study of corpus callosum
Segmentation of the hippocampus in a T1-weighted image from a healthy subject

The heterogeneity of MRI scanners, both clinical and preclinical, and of parameters that characterize them, the lack of benchmarks for standard acquisition protocols, the rapid technological evolution, combined with a limited integration of clinical tests and neuropsychological, limit the possibility of aggregating data from different sites. For these reasons, multicenter studies must provide for the harmonization of the brain imaging protocol and the evaluation of the reproducibility of data over time.

The project aims to increase diagnostic and prognostic power of MRI data (imaging biomarkers) from different sites through:

  • Integration using a platform to collect and share data

  • Harmonization of imaging protocols, among vendor platforms and recruitment sites to minimize intra-scanner and inter-scanner variability

  • Sharing knowledge and experience to increase scientific competitiveness at international level

The impact of this project can be summarized in four key words:

  • rationalization of the resources made available at the various centers that will allow the identification of specific protocols for specific diseases;

  • standardization of protocols and methods of analysis that will allow the comparison of data acquired at different centers;

  • optimization of acquisition systems;

  • sharing of procedures and data.

Resting-state fMRI: default mode network (left panel) and right frontoparietal network (right panel) in healthy subjects

Clinical and research aims
  • Identification of the available MR instruments and sequences;

  • Definition and sharing of standardized and advanced MR diagnostic protocols for clinical and research purposes among the various IRCCS involved;

  • Elaboration of methods and procedures (Standard Operating Procedures) for the acquisition, processing and sharing of both basic and advanced MR protocols specific for the diseases identified among IRCCS network;

  • Acquisition of a control group of healthy subjects (stratified by age) to identify quantitative parameters of both diagnostic and prognostic imaging;

  • Creation of a database that integrates clinical and imaging information (‘big data’) on pilot projects in dementia and intellectual disability in children;

  • Promote the treatment and sharing of the sensitive data (clinical and research data) in agreement with the standards of the Italian Government and of the European Parliament (Regulation EU 2016/679)

Technical/technological aims
  • Identification of shared procedures for the quality control and analysis of stability on scanners;

  • Implementation of a platform for the exchange and analysis of the collected data on the existing NeuGRID platform (;

  • Create a pilot “BIG-DATA” repository connected to Human Brain Project to federate imaging data coupled with socio-demographic, clinical and neuropsychological variables

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