The Cerebral Blood Flow Biomedical Informatics Research Network (CBFBIRN) database and analysis pipeline for arterial spin labeling MRI data

Front Neuroinform. 2013 Oct 18;7:21. doi: 10.3389/fninf.2013.00021. eCollection 2013.


Arterial spin labeling (ASL) is a magnetic resonance imaging technique that provides a non-invasive and quantitative measure of cerebral blood flow (CBF). After more than a decade of active research, ASL is now emerging as a robust and reliable CBF measurement technique with increased availability and ease of use. There is a growing number of research and clinical sites using ASL for neuroscience research and clinical care. In this paper, we present an online CBF Database and Analysis Pipeline, collectively called the Cerebral Blood Flow Biomedical Informatics Research Network (CBFBIRN) that allows researchers to upload and share ASL and clinical data. In addition to serving the role as a central data repository, the CBFBIRN provides a streamlined data processing infrastructure for CBF quantification and group analysis, which has the potential to accelerate the discovery of new scientific and clinical knowledge. All capabilities and features built into the CBFBIRN are accessed online using a web browser through a secure login. In this work, we begin with a general description of the CBFBIRN system data model and its architecture, then devote the remainder of the paper to the CBFBIRN capabilities. The latter part of our work is divided into two processing modules: (1) Data Upload and CBF Quantification Module; (2) Group Analysis Module that supports three types of analysis commonly used in neuroscience research. To date, the CBFBIRN hosts CBF maps and associated clinical data from more than 1,300 individual subjects. The data have been contributed by more than 20 different research studies, investigating the effect of various conditions on CBF including Alzheimer's, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, traumatic brain injury, HIV, caffeine usage, and methamphetamine abuse. Several example results, generated by the CBFBIRN processing modules, are presented. We conclude with the lessons learned during implementation and deployment of the CBFBIRN and our experience in promoting data sharing.

Keywords: arterial spin labeling; cerebral blood flow; data sharing; database; group analysis; magnetic resonance imaging; perfusion imaging.