Project details


Investigating structural and functional brain alterations in patients with movement disorders using functional MRI

Neuroimaging Hyperkinetic movement disorders myoclonus dystonia

prof. dr. M.A.J. de Koning-Tijssen
Dr. A.M.M. van der Stouwe
dr. J.R. Dalenberg
drs. R.S. Marapin

Type of project:
Pilot project (year 2 or 3)

Nature of the research:
The student will participate in different aspect of the NEMO study (the NExt move in MOvement disorders), organised within the Expertise Centre Movement Disorders Groningen. This is a large study in patients with hyperkinetic movement disorders, such as tremor, dystonia and myoclonus, where we aim to develop a computer aided diagnosis tool to help clinicians to make the correct diagnosis. A team of neurologists, movement scientists, computer scientists and several PhD students are involved, and the student will become a part of this team. Data collection for this study is in full swing, and the student will get to work in a well organised team while also having clear individual tasks (see the workplan below). The student is encouraged to visit our groups weekly online and offline meetings, such as the movement disorders video’s meetings, work in progress meetings, the department of neurology’s research meetings and the journal club.

Fields of study:
neurology radiology

Background / introduction
The "Next Move in Movement Disorders" (NEMO) project focuses on computer aided diagnosis of hyperkinetic movement disorders, which are characterized by an excess of involuntary movements, including tremor, myoclonus, dystonia, tics, chorea, spasticity and ataxia. Each movement disorder has its own clinical presentation, but frequently complex and variable mixed forms occur. Research has demonstrated that it is difficult for neurologists to distinguish these disorders if they do not see these patients frequently, and also that doctors do not always agree amongst themselves. Since hyperkinetic movement disorders have no clear anatomical abnormalities, pathology is most likely attributed to altered function of brain networks.
However, so far, imaging studies have shown inconsistent distinctions in the spatial and functional properties of brain regions and networks. This is likely due to the use of different methodologies in different groups of patients and inconsistent phenotyping. The NEMO project aims to improve patient diagnosis using computer aided methodology. In this project many different data acquisition includes multiple modalities such as video analysis, movement registration and neuroimaging including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Regarding MRI, we have both structural and functional MRI (fMRI) data. The data acquisition for the NEMO project is ongoing and, currently, we have MRI data from over 100 participants. The goal of the current student project is to better understand brain structure and function. The aim is to investigate differences in brain structure and functional connectivity in patients with hyperkinetic movement disorders.
Research question / problem definition
What are the underlying structural and functional brain network abnormalities in patients with hyperkinetic movement disorders?

- And how is this correlated with the severity of the disorder?
During the past years we have collected MRI data from different groups of patients with hyperkinetic movement disorders, as well as healthy participants. We want to analyze the data and compare brain network patterns between patients with hyperkinetic movement disorders and healthy controls. We are looking for a student who has affinity and experience with programming and who is interested in the field of neurology.

Firstly, the student will get acquainted with the study protocol and patient population. Patients participate in a PET scan, MRI scan, and movement registration with electromyography (EMG), accelerometry and 3D and 2D video recordings. Our team will take him/her on board and train them to participate in the data collection measurements.

Secondly, the student will start to get familiar with how MRI, both structural and fMRI data is typically analyzed and will learn substantial neuroanatomy in general and neural pathophysiology underlying movement disorders along the way. This will be done under supervision so the student can ask any questions they like.

Finally, the student will be able to join activities at the department such as weekly research meetings in which current research is presented and where advise can be asked within the research group.
The next move in movement disorders (NEMO): developing a computer aided classification tool for hyperkinetic movement disorders. A.M.M. van der Stouwe, I. Tuitert, I. Giotis, J. Calon, R. Gannamani, J.R. Dalenberg, S. van der Veen, M.R. Klamer, A.C. Telea, M.A.J. Tijssen. BMJ Open 2021.
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