Virtual Reality 3-D Brain Helps Scientists Understand Migraine Pain

Virtual Reality 3-D Brain Helps Scientists Understand Migraine Pain

Dr. Alex DaSilva Photo Credit: Scott Soderberg, Michigan Photography

From U-M News:

ANN ARBOR—Wielding a joystick and wearing special glasses, pain researcher Alexandre DaSilva rotates and slices apart a large, colorful, 3-D brain floating in space before him.

Despite the white lab coat, it appears DaSilva’s playing the world’s most advanced virtual video game.  The University of Michigan dentistry professor is actually hoping to better understand how our brains make their own pain-killing chemicals during a migraine attack.

The 3-D brain is a novel way to examine data from images taken during a patient’s actual migraine attack, says DaSilva, who heads the Headache and Orofacial Pain Effort at the U-M School of Dentistry and the Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Institute.

Different colors in the 3-D brain give clues about chemical processes happening during a patient’s migraine attack using a PET scan, or positron emission tomography, a type of medical imaging.

“This high level of immersion (in 3-D) effectively places our investigators inside the actual patient’s brain image,” DaSilva said.

Through some innovative work done by Dr. Alexandre Dasilva and his team in the School of Dentistry, the Duderstadt Center was presented with some exciting new data that shows activation in the brain *during* a migraine attack. Most data happens before or after an attack. Sean Petty and Ted Hall worked closely with Dr. DaSilva to interpret the data and add some new tools to Jugular, our in-house 3D engine, for exploring volumetric data such as fMRI and CT scans. Dr. DaSilva can now explore the brain data by easily walking around the data and interactively cutting through it.