Providing Alzheimer's disease brain scan data to other researchers

Research project: Minimal Interval Resonance Imaging in Alzheimer's disease and normal ageing (MIRIAD): disseminating a unique imaging database to the Alzheimer's disease research community.

Lead Investigator: Dr Jonathan Schott
Institution: Institute of Neurology, University College London
Grant type: Dissemination grant
Grant amount: £21,868
Start date: March 2012
Completion date: February 2013

What was the project, and what did the researchers do?

As research into Alzheimer's disease begins to focus more on early detection and intervention, using imaging methods like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for diagnosis is increasingly important. Having more than one
MRI scan separated by a period of time (e.g. one year) also allows for the rate the brain is changing over time to be calculated. This is particularly important in trials that aim to see if drugs can slow the rate that brain cells are lost in Alzheimer's disease.

Detecting and tracking brain changes in Alzheimer's disease from MRI scans requires sophisticated computer analysis methods. While there are many groups around the world working on developing software to do this, it is important that they have access to a large number of high-quality scans to test it on. Ideally the same scans should also be used to allow methods to be compared thoroughly and fairly.

From 2003–2005 Dr Schott ran a clinical MRI study called MIRIAD (Minimal Interval Resonance Imaging in Alzheimer's Disease) at University College London's Dementia Research Centre. This work was done through an Alzheimer’s Society Clinical Research Fellowship and part-funded by GlaxoSmithKline. The study acquired 708 MRI scans from 46 people with Alzheimer's disease and 23 age-matched healthy controls over intervals ranging from same day, through fortnightly to two years apart.

MIRIAD was intended to investigate the usefulness of MRI for clinical trials of Alzheimer's disease treatments, but also proved a powerful tool for other areas of our research into dementia imaging. At the Dementia Research Centre this data has been used successfully in over 20 publications, but until now they have not been made available to other researchers.

This dissemination grant was awarded to make this data set publicly available to research groups with expertise in medical image processing anywhere in the world. Using the same data set makes it simpler for researchers to compare methods with each other directly. 

What were the key results, and how will this help in the fight against dementia?

The researchers used a database that enabled all of the scans to be stored securely in one place. They also created a specific website to provide information on the MIRIAD data set. The announcement of the release of the data set was made in a journal publication at the end of 2012 and the data was made available in February 2013. Within the first three months, there were over 100 users of the data from over 40 different institutions worldwide.

By making this data available, the researchers have lowered the barriers to performing research in imaging Alzheimer's disease. MIRIAD will have a continuing impact on brain imaging and research as researchers start to use it to evaluate new methods.

As part of the agreement to release the data, individuals agree to acknowledge the support of Alzheimer's Society in future publications, ensuring that our involvement in this work and its future impact may be quantified. 

What happened next? Future work and additional grants

Ongoing support for the database and downloads will continue for the foreseeable future. The grant holders are preparing two papers presenting a comprehensive analysis of the methods that were used by participants in the MICCAI 2012 Atrophy Challenge, in collaboration with the laboratories involved. These – and any other related publications – will acknowledge the support of Alzheimer's Society, as will publications from any other group downloading these data.

How were people told about the results? Conferences and publications


Malone IB, Cash D, Ridgway GR, MacManus DG, Ourselin S, Fox NC, Schott JM. MIRIAD--Public release of a multiple time point Alzheimer's MR imaging dataset. Neuroimage. 2013 Apr 15;70:33-6.

MICCAI 2012 Workshop on Novel Imaging Biomarkers for Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders L. Wang, P. Yushkevich and S. Ourselin (Eds.) (Alzheimer's Society acknowledged in 'Preface to the Atrophy Challenge')

Two papers resulting from the MICCAI challenge are in preparation, with a plan for linked submission to Neuroimage.

Use in courses:
Statistical Parametric Mapping (SPM) course, ETH Zurich and University of Zurich, February 2013.

SPM course, UCL Institute of Neurology, University College London, May 2013.

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