Neuroimaging has advanced rapidly in recent years, allowing us to examine the inner workings of the human brain. But while understanding the brain at work is important, so is understanding what it is doing when we are not performing a task or experiencing stimuli, a condition known as the resting state.
Resting state specialists from around the world will gather in Montreal from Sept. 24 to 29 for the Sixth Biennial Conference on Resting State and Brain Connectivity, the first time this international conference will be hosted in Canada.
Contrary to what you may think, the brain in resting state is not exactly resting. Even while we are sleeping, brain regions continue to communicate with other regions with electrical waves, which can be detected and measured using neuroimaging technology such as electroencephalogram (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
Analyzing which regions synchronize during resting state provides important insight into the brain’s connectivity – how the brain is “wired”.
Scientists have found that synchronicity during resting state changes in people with neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. This provides opportunities to diagnose these diseases earlier in the development, because the synchronicity changes occur before physiological or cognitive symptoms appear. It also provides valuable information about disease mechanisms.
Resting state brain data is becoming increasingly valuable as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning become more accessible to neuroscientists. Researchers can compile the data into huge data sets that AI algorithms can use to find meaningful patterns. This is much harder with brain imaging data from subjects performing activities because to be compatible the activity or stimuli would have to be exactly the same across the labs providing the data.
“Given the clear importance of machine learning and the emerging deep learning modeling method to studies of brain connectivity, we’re presenting a satellite workshop called ‘A practical guide on how to incorporate machine and deep learning into your data analysis’”, says Amir Shmuel, a researcher at The Neuro - Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital and the chair of the organizing committee. The Neuro is one of the local sponsors of the conference, along with McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine and the Quebec Bio-Imaging Network. The workshop on machine learning techniques will take place on Sept. 29.
The resting state conference will be a good opportunity for researchers from around the world to share knowledge and latest research, according to Shmuel, which could be a fertile ground for future collaborations. About 640 people have registered for either the main conference, the educational workshop, or the satellite workshop on machine learning. There is also a networking event happening during the conference. The networking event will give students an opportunity to meet leading researchers in the field of resting state.
As part of the conference, there will be a scientific art exhibit held from Sept. 26 to 28, entitled ‘The Lines that Connect’, which is open to the public.
“This conference is bringing a lot of visibility to Montreal and Canada in terms of neuroscience and resting state connectivity research,” says Shmuel. “It will also provide local researchers with a platform to present their work and chances to form new partnerships with researchers from around the world.”