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XNAT: Improving accessibility of neuroimaging data

Sep 3, 2020

In the complex field of neuroscience, doctors and researchers rely on information from neuroimaging systems such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or Positron Emission Tomography (PET) to gain new insights into how the brain functions.

IU’s Research Technologies is helping to streamline and optimize this data, in order to share experiments and research findings more easily with colleagues across disciplines and in virtual meetings. Since 2016, Research Technologies’ Campus Bridging and Research Infrastructure (CBRI) has run XNAT, an open- source imaging informatics platform, for research done by the Center for NeuroImaging (CfN) at the IU School of Medicine. Now, the CfN has officially moved operations of the XNAT service to the Scalable Compute Archive (SCA). 

We are thrilled to add XNAT to our partnership supporting CfN, and especially that we could upgrade the XNAT version making it possible for end users to interactively view images on any modern web browser (the prior version required Internet Explorer and Java).

Arvind Gopu, Manager, SCA

The migration also includes a major upgrade to security protocols for sensitive information subject to privacy law. “With medical data, security and access control are paramount; SCA has enacted security policies including multiple redundant firewalls to precisely align access to stakeholder needs,” said Ray Perigo, Senior Analyst/Programmer, SCA.

XNAT’s simple yet highly functional interface allows researchers to find, view, and interrogate imaging sets.

Originally developed by the Neuroinformatics Research Group at Washington University in St. Louis, XNAT facilitates the management and productivity of imaging and associated data, along with quality assurance tasks. The Indiana Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (IADRC) and Longitudinal Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Study (LEADS) are two major projects that use XNAT to review images to help guide group determinations for research subjects at weekly consensus conferences.

We greatly appreciate the support of the SCA team in upgrading and migrating the XNAT platform. XNAT is an enabling technology for our advanced neuroimaging and -omics research on Alzheimer’s disease and related brain disorders. The ability of our IT group to work hand in hand with the SCA greatly facilitates progress.

Dr. Andrew Saykin, Director, CfN and IADRC.

XNAT’s built in viewer allows researchers to review imaging data quickly and easily during consensus conferences and other meetings.

With many researchers meeting virtually amid the COVID-19 pandemic, these upgrades increase accessibility for all users, and keep discoveries on track. “This is especially important in the current environment where conferences are now done remotely from multiple different systems,” said John West, Principal Systems Analyst, CfN and IADRC. “We are confident that our partnership with the talented SCA team will allow us to spin up other XNAT instances to serve as the central imaging repositories for future multi center projects.”

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