Alan Urban

Alan Urban

VIB, KU Leuven, Belgium

Alan Urban


Alan is a group leader at Neuro-Electronics Research Flanders (NERF), an initiative of VIB, KU Leuven, and imec in Belgium. He is on a tenure track as an assistant professor of Neuroscience at KU Leuven and has earned a Ph.D. in cellular and molecular biology from the University of Lorraine in France. As a serial entrepreneur with expertise in technology development, he has been honored with numerous scientific prices. His leadership at NERF is marked by groundbreaking work in functional ultrasound imaging (fUS), a transformative technology for neuroscience research. Through global collaborations, his team is developing state-of-the-art hardware and software to revolutionize our understanding of brain circuitry in both preclinical and clinical research. Central to his research is the exploration of neurovascular coupling (NVC), the intricate relationship between blood flow and brain activity. His focus on the contributions of specific neuronal types to NVC seeks to elucidate their functions and influence on neurological conditions, such as aging-related changes, stroke pathophysiology, vascular diseases, and brain tumor development, conditions that commonly impair normal NVC dynamics.

Description of the general focus of the symposium "OpenfUS: The gateway to cutting-edge brain activity mapping with functional ultrasound imaging"

Functional ultrasound (fUS) imaging has emerged over the past decade as a revolutionary technology for imaging brain activity. This modality leverages the hemodynamic responses associated with neural activity, offering a high spatiotemporal resolution, sensitivity, and field of view that surpasses several imaging techniques. Despite its advancement, there is a notable absence of an integrated resource that consolidates animal surgery protocols, platform construction, data acquisition, analysis, and interpretation. The OpenfUS initiative led by the Neuro-Electronics Research Flanders in Belgium addresses this gap by offering a comprehensive resource portal centralizing this information into a unified framework. It serves as a nexus for global users of fUS technology, providing access to the cumulative expertise of field leaders. OpenfUS streamlines the end-to-end process of fUS imaging, from experimental setup to insightful analysis, facilitating a leap forward in brain research and fostering collaboration and innovation across the scientific community. During this symposium, we will elucidate the fundamental research conducted employing OpenfUS in diverse animal models, encompassing mice, cats, pigs, and primates, and explain how fUS facilitates the rapid acquisition of novel insights pertaining to brain circuits and pathologies.


Ultrasound imaging is broadly utilized in medical diagnostics and has recently been extended to specific applications in pre-clinical research on small animals — e.g. functional US (fUS) for real-time monitoring of brain activity, focused US for neuromodulation and opening of the blood-brain barrier, and more. Instrumentation for these techniques is complex and requires programmable ultrasound hardware, dedicated probes, and advanced signal processing software.

We have developed a family of research ultrasound platforms with open-source software providing support for the most popular languages: PYTHON, MATLAB, C++. Our systems can work with various probes (linear, annular, matrix) in the frequency range of 1—30MHz. Real-time access to raw RF or I/Q data, support for ultrafast acquisition, and powerful GPU processing on raw data make the platforms a versatile tool for almost any application.

Partnering with the community, we would like to develop software tools for selected pre- clinical applications. I will present a few application use-cases to prove how our platforms’ features and functions can bring value to the open-science paradigm.

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