Sep 3 (Fri) @ 10:00am: "Methods to Connect Brain Structure and Function," Angela Zhang, ECE PhD Defense

Date and Time
Zoom Meeting – Meeting ID: 810 2053 8110 | Passcode: 450582


Exploring the connection between structure and function is an important piece of the puzzle in understanding the brain. The structure of the brain refers to the physical connections and morphological features of the neuronal cells, while function refers to the behaviors and symptoms manifesting in the individual.

In this research we investigate the structure-function relationships at different spatial scales, from single neuron connections to tissue level connectomics. We present methods to detect and identify the neurotransmitter types of synapses in a small organism, Ciona, from confocal and electron microscopy images. Ciona is a chordate closely related to humans on the evolutionary tree, but with a much simpler neuronal structure. Understanding the Ciona connectome is an important step towards understanding the human brain. This is one of the first attempts to discover the relationship of the synaptic structures with their function in Ciona that includes mapping the confocal data with the EM data, detecting synaptic regions, and developing a classification model for neuro-transmitter types.

At the tissue level, we consider the problem of predicting Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH) from the brain CT scans of human subjects. NPH is a highly treatable condition which is often misdiagnosed due to confounding factors, such as Parkinson’s. Here we develop methods for segmenting the brain scans and using the human connectome data to improve the overall prediction accuracy. Detailed experimental results validating the methods are presented.


Angela Zhang received her BS in bioengineering with minors in music and EECS (electrical engineering and computer science) from the University of California, Berkeley. During her undergraduate studies, she interned at various biotechnology companies and conducted research in both microfluidics and Magnetic Resonance Imaging. She obtained her MS in electrical and computer engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a focus on signal processing. She is currently a PhD student in the ECE Department  and works at Abbott Laboratories as a researcher on computer vision algorithms for heart imaging devices and medical diagnostics.

Hosted by: Angela Zhang, Vision Research Laboratory

Submitted by: Angela Zhang <>