Visual Informatics for Small Animal Imaging
Small animal models provide essential tools to better understand and treat human disease. One of the aims we have set at the Center for In Vivo Microscopy is to advance image-based discovery of anatomical, physiological, and molecular biomarkers in animal models. We aim to synergize the efforts of our colleagues at the CIVM to provide an integrated perspective through quantitative and multivariate biomarkers. The challenges we face come from: 1) the sheer volume of image data acquired from different sources and with different contrasts; 2) biological variability coming from animal strain, age, or disease phenotype. But to understand the changes that happen with disease we must first establish the boundaries of normal variability. To this aim we have developed atlases of the brain for some of the most common mouse and rat strains, at adult age and through development period. Building of top of this foundation, we have implemented pipelines for registration and segmentation, to characterize regional and local structural changes in the brains of rodent models of Alzheimer's disease, autism, or toxic insults. The visualization of statistical maps describing such changes is an essential component of discovery in neuroimaging. It is our hope that pipelines developed for automated, quantitative phenotyping will increase throughput for the analysis of many large data sets, enhance sensitivity through statistics power, while ensuring reproducibility of the analysis.