The human brain has a unique capability of producing and processing complex forms of language. Yet our understanding of how the brain masters this process very limited. In this project, called RELAY we will set important steps towards a better understanding in how language is processed in the brain. We will achieve this goal by using a new imaging modality called functional ultrasound (fUS) in conjunction with real-time language mapping during brain surgery.
CUBE – Center of Ultrasound Brain imaging at Erasmus MC – is one of few places in the world where fUS is developed and experimentally used to study the brain. The CUBE infrastructure, in-house expertise on language processing and the clinical need for techniques that enable safer tumor removal provide a unique opportunity to study language processing in the human brain. We therefore propose the RELAY project, where the departments of Neuroscience and Neurosurgery will work closely together on patientspecific mapping of the functional brain areas surrounding the tumors by using fUS imaging. For the mapping, we envision a closed loop between a clinical linguist, imaging results and the patient. Because the clinical linguist is in direct contact with the patient, language tests can be selected instantly, according to the real-time map that is provided with algorithms adapted from functional-MRI (fMRI) analysis. These algorithms will run on acceleration hardware specifically developed together with Maxeler in order to ensure realtime feedback to the clinical linguist; see Figure 1.
Through RELAY, we will be the first in the world to study language processing at a complete new and transformative level. In addition, by better understanding language processes and how they react to damage, we will pave the first steps towards safer tumor removal.