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Dr Rafael Romero-Garcia

Departments and Institutes

Psychiatry:

Research Interests

Neurosurgical management of brain tumours has entered a new paradigm where resection is extended into the peri-tumoural margin to minimise the potential for recurrence or malignant transformation. Maximising the resection whilst minimising harm is complicated by difficulty in determining the edge of the tumour and limitations in mapping the function of apparently normal brain tissue surrounding the tumour.

Our group aim to address the problem of accurately mapping cognitive functions in a way that is of value to surgeons by using connectomics to create functional and structural 'wiring diagrams' of the brain. Connectomics uses white matter connectivity and the synchronicity of brain signals measured by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to model the brain as a continuously interacting communication networks. The way these brain networks are organized is intimately related to cognitive functions, and is believed to be sensitive to changes in these networks due to injury or surgery. Consequently, the hypothesis is that connectomics provides quantitative information on brain networks related to the cognitive functions of individual patients that is valuable to planning tumour resections.

The objective of our research is to derive from pre-operative MRI and connectomic analysis an estimate of the potential risk of resecting tissue in terms of functional loss post-operatively, and from changes in connectomic measure pre- and post-operatively, the likelihood of recovery. We will develop a demonstration system for surgical feedback consisting of a surgical mannequin to which MRI images are mapped and a 3D pointer to orientate the surgeons to the connectomic data. Risk estimates of resecting tissue will come from data collected before and after surgical resection of brain tumours, and up to 12 months following surgery, to discover what properties of the connectome best predict cognitive outcomes and their recovery during rehabilitation. This combined technology will be tested in an observational study for its effectiveness in supporting surgical planning.

Keywords

  • connectivity
  • network
  • neuroimaging
  • graph

Key Publications

  • Romero-Garcia R, Whitaker KJ, Váša F, Seidlitz J, Shinn M, Fonagy P, Dolan RJ, Jones PB, Goodyer IM; NSPN Consortium, Bullmore ET, Vértes PE (2018). Structural covariance networks are coupled to expression of genes enriched in supragranular layers of the human cortex. Neuroimage, 171:256-267.
  • Romero-Garcia R*, Warrier V*, Bullmore ET, Baron-Cohen S, Bethlehem RAI (2017). Synaptic and transcriptionally downregulated genes are associated with cortical thickness differences in autism. Molecular Psychiatry, In Press. *Equally contributed.
  • Vasa F, Seidlitz J, Romero-Garcia R, Whitaker K, Rosenthal G, Vertes P, Shinn M, Alexander-Bloch A, Fonagy P, Dolan R, Jones P, Goodyer I, The NSPN Consortium, Sporns O, Bullmore E (2018). Adolescent development of structural brain networks. Cerebral cortex, 28:281-294.
  • Seidlitz J, Váša F, Shinn M, Romero-Garcia R, Whitaker KJ, Vértes PE, Wagstyl K, Kirkpatrick Reardon P, Clasen L, Liu S, Messinger A, Leopold DA, Fonagy P, Dolan RJ, Jones PB, Goodyer IM; NSPN Consortium, Raznahan A, Bullmore ET (2017). Morphometric Similarity Networks Detect Microscale Cortical Organization and Predict Inter-Individual Cognitive Variation. Neuron, 97(1):231-247.e7.
  • Bethlehem* RAI, Romero-Garcia* R, Mak R, Bullmore ET, Baron-Cohen S (2017). Structural covariance networks in children with autism or ADHD. Cerebral cortex, 27:4267-4276. *Equally contributed.
  • Shinn M, Romero-Garcia R, Seidlitz J, Váša F, Vértes PE, Bullmore E (2017). Versatility of nodal affiliation to communities. Scientific Reports, 7:4273.
  • Vértes PE, Rittman T, Whitaker KJ, Romero-Garcia R, Váša F, Kitzbichler M, Fonagy P, Dolan RJ, Jones PB, Goodyer IM, the NSPN Consortium, Bullmore ET (2016). Gene transcription profiles associated with intra-modular and inter-modular hubs in human fMRI networks. Philosophical Transactions B. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2015.0362
  • Whitaker KJ, Vértes PE, Romero-Garcia R, Váša F, Moutoussis M, Prabhu G, Weiskopf N, Callaghan MF, Wagstyl K, Rittman T, Tait R, Ooi C, Suckling J, Inkster B, Fonagy P, Dolan RJ, Jones PB, Goodyer IM, Bullmore ET (2016). Adolescence is associated with transcriptionally patterned consolidation of the hubs of the human brain connectome. PNAS, 113:9105-10.
  • Romero-Garcia R, Atienza M, Cantero JL (2016). Different Scales of Cortical Organization are Selectively Targeted in the Progression to Alzheimer's Disease. International Journal of Neural Systems, 26:1650003.
  • Hart MG, Ypma R, Romero-Garcia R, Price SJ, Suckling J (2016). Graph theory analysis of complex brain networks: new concepts in brain mapping applied to neurosurgery. Journal of Neurosurgery, 124:1665-78.
  • Romero-Garcia R, Atienza M, Cantero JL (2013). Predictors of coupling between structural and functional cortical networks in normal aging. Human Brain Mapping, DOI:10.1002/hbm.22362.
  • Romero-Garcia R, Atienza M, Clemmensen LH, Cantero JL (2012). Effects of network resolution on topological properties of human neocortex, Neuroimage, 59: 3522-3532.