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High Definition Fiber Tracking

The brain is made up of a system of axons, or nerve fibers, through which brain cells communicate with each other. Axons link together to form cable-like structures, called tracts.

Tracts contain millions of nerve connections and make up the white matter of the brain.

Individual tracts of the brain are responsible for such functions as speech, memory, and left- and right-sided movement.

With high definition fiber tracking (HDFT), UPMC neurosurgeons can visualize 40 different brain tracts with clarity and accuracy.

3D Imaging of the Brain's Connections

HDFT is groundbreaking imaging technology, developed at the University of Pittsburgh, that makes the connections in the brain visible to the human eye.

It allows surgeons to view the detailed wiring of a person’s brain fibers to determine the best way for removing brain tumors, while preserving brain function and promoting recovery.

How High Definition Fiber Tracking (HDFT) Works

Moving beyond the black-and-white 2D images created by MRI scans, HDFT technology shows a 3D image of the brain filled with thin, brightly colored strands. These brightly colored strands correspond to the different functions of the brain's major fiber tracts.

With HDFT, our neurosurgeons can:

  • See which brain connections have been broken and which are still intact.
  • Look for breaks in the fibers that could damage the way they communicate, causing loss of function within the body.
  • Localize fiber breaks caused by traumatic brain injuries to provide better diagnoses and prognoses.
  • Determine the optimal surgical approach for difficult-to-reach tumors and vascular malformations.

Current techniques for brain imaging (CT, MRI, and DTI) can only visualize or detect between 5 and 30 percent of the damage caused by traumatic brain injury.

Using HDFT Before, During, and After Brain Surgery

UPMC neurosurgeons are at the forefront of developing many ways for using High Definition Fiber Tracking including:

  • Neurosurgical planning
  • Neuro-structural damage assessment
  • Guidance in the operating room
  • Intraoperative navigation
  • Tracking changes and responses to rehabilitation therapy after brain surgery

» Learn more about HDFT at UPMC in our media kit.