Impact of Neuroimaging on IDD Research

Neuroimaging research has been, and will continue to be, integral to the rapid growth in our understanding of the developing brain’s structure and function in both typically and atypically developing populations. The Washington University School of Medicine is an international hub for the advancement and refinement of neuroimaging as a technological tool and this modality of phenotypic assessment is in wide use in human clinical studies at WUSTL. The Developmental Neuroimaging Core (DNC) of our IDDRC has the distinct role of capitalizing upon this infrastructure in ways that specifically optimize utilization of its resources and people in order to advance science in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. This entails the application of focused expertise in several key aspects of neuroimaging technology: mock scanning; specialized approaches to data acquisition in un-sedated infants, children, and IDD subjects; data analyses predicated upon established brain-behavior relationships in developing children, data processing pipelines specific for developmental studies, capacity to deliver complete data analyses for experts in diverse areas of DD research who are inexperienced in developmental neuroimaging but are applying this powerful technology to their established cohorts, and an informatics platform that accommodates serial measurement and facilitates the mapping of developmental trajectories.

Services of the Developmental Neuroimaging Core

Data Acquisition and Analysis Unit

The DAA has three main service components: MRI, optical neuroimaging, and infant & early childhood investigation.

Specifically supported MRI modalities include, but are not limited to:

  • Conventional structural imaging including post-acquisition segmentation and volumetry
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) including Diffusion Tensor Tractography (DTT)
  • Task-based functional MRI (fMRI) and "resting state" fMRI analysis of functional connectivity
  • MR Perfusion imaging using the methods of Dynamic Susceptibility contrast, Dynamic Contrast Enhancement, and Arterial Spin Labeling
  • MR Spectroscopy

Optical imaging through High Density Diffuse Optimal Tomography (HD-DOT)can provide extensive longitudinal measures of brain function using a technology more portable and wearable than MRI. These systems are well-suited for children ranging from neonates through school age. Infancy and Early Childhood Methods are available through Dr. Botteron's team, who has extensive expertise in scanning un-sedated infants, toddlers, and young children. The DAA Unit will assist with consultation, study design and preparation of grant applications and manuscripts. The DAA Unit will provide training on scanner equipment or a trained technologist depending on the study design.

Neuroinformatics Unit

The purpose of this Unit is to provide the necessary data management, automated image processing/analysis, and computing infrastructure that will allow IDDRC investigators to undertake developmental neuroimaging studies with barriers to success minimized, to provide data packaging that facilitates access to developmental researchers, and to feed the imaging informatics into a broader informatics system, such as i2b2. Data management services are hosted on the Central Neuroimaging Data Archive (CNDA), an XNAT-based system fully integrated with WashU scanners which includes a web-based upload for multi-site (non-WashU) data. Automated image processing and analysis occurs through CNDA's Pipeline Services. Computer infrastructure operates on a Linux-based system and includes integration with 4dfp, FSL, FreeSurfer, Caret, SPM, FieldTrip, DICOMBrowser, ImageJ, Analyze, R, Matlab, and python.

Fees for Core Usage

DAA. $75/hr will be charged for technical support services conducted by the DAA. This cost is below the rate charged at other WUSTL cores. MRI imaging cost during work hours (0800-1700) is at a current rate of $600/hr, which includes the technologist who performs the scan. Lower hourly MRI rates can be obtained “after hours”. However, during these off-hour times, the researcher must have a qualified person to run the scanner, or hire a technologist from the DAA at $75/hr. The same fee of $75/hr will be charged for technical support services conducted by the optical neuroimaging group and will cover use of the HD-DOT systems. Software development and specialized data analysis services will also be provided at that fee schedule. The initial development of experience in MRI scanning of newborns, infants, and children can be time intensive and costly and may be less feasible for some specific investigators. The DAA, though the expertise of Dr. Botteron and her team, will offer, at a rate of $75/hr, the option of training of other research staff for larger independent projects or actually preparing families and acquiring scans in studies where the development of such protocols may be outside the expertise of the research group. Collected fees will be used for offsetting the cost of staff salaries.

Use of the Central Neuroimaging Data Archive (CNDA) will be charged according to a standard, published fee structure that covers all standard CNDA services, including data archival ($5 per sessions acquired at WUSTL, $10 for sessions from outside institutions), bulk data transfers ($200 per set-up of new source or destination, then $5 per session for outgoing, and bulk data archival rates for incoming), customized scripting or development ($75 per hour), specialized data management $75 per hour), data transfer hardware (market cost of device---~$550 as of Jan, 2015), and multi-site study management ($10,000 per multi site study, $1000 per site for configuration and training, and then all charges listed above for services and products). Multi-site fees are waived for pilot studies meeting set criteria.

Research Aims of the DNC

  1. To provide high-quality comprehensive consultation for study design.
  2. To conduct highly cost-efficient data acquisition for IDDRC investigators collecting neuroimaging data in IDD research efforts.
  3. To provide data processing, informatics, and analytic services that optimize the exploration and accurate interpretation of neuroimaging data in IDD research at WUSTL.

DNC Directors

Steve Peterson, PhD
James S. McDonnell Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience
Joshua Shimony, MD, PhD
Associate Professor of Radiology

Unit Directors

WU faculty interested in utilizing these services who are unfamiliar with the IDDRC or DNC should reach out to the DNC Core Directors for initial consultation and referral.


Dan Marcus, PhD
Associate Professor, Radiology

Data Acquisition and Analysis

Avi Snyder, MD, PhD
Professor, Radiology