Brainhack movement comes to FIU, promotes global collaboration in neuroscience research


FIU’s Cognitive Neuroscience and Imaging Center (CNIC) hosted the Miami Brainhack Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) conference Oct. 18. Brainhack is a unique conference that convenes researchers from across the globe to work together on innovative projects related to neuroscience. 

The Miami Brainhack EDT focused on open small-group sessions where attendees, analyzed brain imaging data and developed tools and resources for data to be shared across labs. More specifically, the group at FIU worked on developing fMRI data processing pipelines – making sure data gets from point A to point B without any serious flaws in the analyses – by moving all of their data processing to FIU’s high performance computing environment.

FIU physicist Angie Laird, is the director of FIU’s CNIC and led the Miami Brainhack EDT team.


FIU physicist Angie Laird with students and colleagues at Brainhack EDT.

“Neuroimaging is a very interdisciplinary field of research, and ultimately our success will rely on our ability to leverage our complementary expertise and conduct team-based science,” Laird said. “At Brainhack EDT, we determined that multiple opportunities exist to forge new collaborations and we were able to make progress towards ensuring that all of our trainees have access to the resources they need, which will allow them to become more efficient and productive as they move towards their graduate degrees.”

Brainhack EDT structured activities onsite based on the interests of the community to encourage active participation and interaction between attendees. Research areas included task-based fMRI, resting state fMRI and diffusion imaging among others.

Students from Laird’s Neuroinformatics and Connectivity Lab participated in Brainhack EDT. They gave a short presentation on network analysis – also called graph theory. It is a way of looking at the brain using nodes and edges – analyzing the brain in terms of structures that connect to each other.

FIU psychologist, Erica Musser exchanging ideas at Brainhack EDT

FIU psychologist, Erica Musser exchanging ideas at Brainhack EDT.

“Think of airports and hub-airports. They use the same system,” explained Julio Yanes, coordinator of research for Laird’s Neuroinformatics and Connectivity Lab. “This is one of the things our lab does that nobody else does and we’d like to share that with the group.”

Brainhack EDT offered an opportunity for researchers to come together, share resources and spark collaborations that would not have occurred otherwise. This event welcomes expertise from all fields including engineering, math and computer science, neuroscience, psychology, psychiatry, neurology, art and philosophy.

Participants from several cities in the United States including, Washington D.C., New York City, Boston, and Ann Arbor, Mich. — as well as international sites from Canada and Brazil — were able to take part in the regional event.

Florida International University researchers collaborated with University of Miami researchers onsite while exchanging ideas via video conferencing with researchers worldwide.

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