A multilayer ontology of instruments for neurological, behavioral and cognitive assessments

Neuroinformatics. 2015 Jan;13(1):93-110. doi: 10.1007/s12021-014-9244-3.


Advances in neuroscience are underpinned by large, multicenter studies and a mass of heterogeneous datasets. When investigating the relationships between brain anatomy and brain functions under normal and pathological conditions, measurements obtained from a broad range of brain imaging techniques are correlated with the information on each subject's neurologic states, cognitive assessments and behavioral scores derived from questionnaires and tests. The development of ontologies in neuroscience appears to be a valuable way of gathering and handling properly these heterogeneous data - particularly through the use of federated architectures. We recently proposed a multilayer ontology for sharing brain images and regions of interest in neuroimaging. Here, we report on an extension of this ontology to the representation of instruments used to assess brain and cognitive functions and behavior in humans. This extension consists of a 'core' ontology that accounts for the properties shared by all instruments supplemented by 'domain' ontologies that conceptualize standard instruments. We also specify how this core ontology has been refined to build domain ontologies dedicated to widely used instruments and how various scores used in the neurosciences are represented. Lastly, we discuss our design choices, the ontology's limitations and planned extensions aimed at querying and reasoning across distributed data sources.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Behavior
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cognition*
  • Computational Biology / methods
  • Humans
  • Information Storage and Retrieval
  • Internet
  • Neurosciences / methods*
  • Systems Integration*