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Team receives grant to “harmonize” brain injury data

Frank Hillary, PhD, professor of psychology and neurology and a member of Penn State Neuroscience Institute, has been interested in the human brain since his early days as a college student at the University of Michigan. He eventually focused his interest — and his research agenda — on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as a window into understanding brain function and brain injury.

Frank Hillary, PhD, is seen sitting in an office with books visible in the background.

Frank Hillary, PhD

In his 20 years as a neuroscientist, however, Hillary said he has realized the flaws in replicating studies and in having enough data to truly advance the science.

“I spent five years being excited, 10 years scratching my head because of the unreliability of findings in small data samples and thinking about how to make the science more reliable, and the last five years working on ways to reconfigure the tools to make them more effective,” he said.

Thanks to a recent $5 million provisional grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the National Institutes of Health, Hillary and 37 co-investigators from all over the world are hoping to change the paradigm. Titled “Advancing Secondary Data Analysis: the ENIGMA Brain Injury Data Harmonization Initiative,” the project aims to address the “replication crisis” by building a pipeline and algorithms to combine data and create novel data sharing platforms.

The ultimate goal for the project, said Hillary, is not only to develop a pipeline for his work — brain injury research — but also to move beyond imaging to other types of data and to make it a model for all areas of neuroscience, including the study of depression, schizophrenia, epilepsy and other brain injuries and disorders.

Read more about the grant in this Penn State News story

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