Global computational researchers collaborate and compete to advance the field of Diffusion MRI Tractography


Boston, MA, December 2020 — The Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, the University of Rochester, and QMENTA have concluded the groundbreaking IronTract Challenge, which brought together bioimaging researchers across the world to collaborate on and establish an objective assessment of accuracy of computational algorithms for Diffusion MRI Tractography compared to ground truth histological data.

Diffusion MRI Tractography is a technique for reconstructing the white-matter bundles that form the wiring of the brain. This technique, which is used in assessment of neurological and psychiatric conditions as well as examining brain development, is currently generating hundreds of thousands of high-quality datasets across many active studies worldwide. Tractography is the only non-invasive and in-vivo method for mapping the wiring of the brain, but is hampered by concerns related to measurement accuracy.  Emerging AI algorithms have significant potential to improve tractography accuracy, but the ability to measure the accuracy of the algorithms themselves is key for validation and improvement.

Under the partnership of the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, the University of Rochester and QMENTA, a community of groundbreaking computational researchers working on diffusion MRI came together under the IronTract Challenge. The challenge used a unique dataset not previously available to the research community, which consisted of histological ground truth on brain connections from Dr. Suzanne Haber’s laboratory at the University of Rochester Medical Center, and high-resolution diffusion MRI data acquired at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging under the supervision of Dr. Anastasia Yendiki. These data were made available on QMENTA’s cloud platform. The global research community successfully used the platform to easily and quickly share/port their cutting edge tractography algorithms and preprocessing workflows, measure their accuracy versus ground truth, and collaborate to advance the knowledge of the research community on the great challenges related to accuracy, reproducibility and standardization of diffusion MRI reconstruction methods.  

QMENTA is awarding prizes to the researchers who achieved high algorithmic accuracy, and ported their algorithms to the QMENTA platform, to be shared  for the benefit of the broader research community, especially applied neuroscience groups that don’t have the support of large IT departments or technicians to run scripts and debug code. With QMENTA these complex workflows can be run by simply selecting the datasets and clicking play to start the analysis.   

The Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, the University of Rochester, and QMENTA are delighted to announce the prize recipients:

1st prize: G. Girard, Radiology Department, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois and University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland, Signal Processing Lab (LTS5), École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland

2nd prize: B. Aydogan, Department of Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering, Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland

3rd prize: M. Mancini, Department of Neuroscience, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, University of Sussex, Brighton, United Kingdom, NeuroPoly Lab, Polytechnique Montreal, Montreal, QC, Canada

The awardees will each receive a financial award from QMENTA by the end of the year, who in turn will continue to make the challenge data and user interface available to serve as a resource to benefit the research community and beyond.  This data will continue being hosted at the QMENTA platform and available at top cost for researchers who would like to validate their novel tractography algorithms. In this way, we hope to not only stimulate the creation of new and improved tractography, but offer a benchmark on their performance compared to the “ground truth” utilizing the QMENTA platform. Following on in early 2021 the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, the University of Rochester, and QMENTA plan to jointly host a webinar to formally celebrate the winners, share more insights from the challenge, explore how developers can make their tools seamlessly available to researchers, and how researchers can further expand their collaboration and improve the execution of their research studies.


About the partners

QMENTA offers a cloud-based platform to streamline the medical imaging workflow for running research and clinical trials. QMENTA’s aim is to enable the acceleration of discovery and development of new treatments for neurological diseases using state-of-the-art imaging biomarkers in a seamless way. The easy-to-use features of QMENTA’s platform enable investigators to run advanced quantification analysis on their medical images in a safe and compliant environment and to easily and securely share the data from different sites, resulting in faster, higher quality and lower cost trial execution.

Established in 2013, QMENTA has been expanding operations in the EU & US, and supports many multi-center studies and a number of clinical trials. The company was named “Best New Radiology Vendor” in 2017 by Aunt Minnie and was a European Winner for Accenture’s Healthtech Innovation Challenge and won the Sanofi Tech Lab challenge. Learn more at:

The Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital is one of the world’s premier research centers devoted to development and application of advanced biomedical imaging technologies. The Center is part of the Department of Radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital and affiliated with both Harvard Medical School and MIT. Our faculty are developing first-of-a-kind tools and applying them to solve challenges in neuroscience, oncology, cardiology and other clinical domains. Learn more at:

The University of Rochester Medical Center is home to more than 3,000 people dedicated to basic, clinical and translational scientific research, studying common and rare illnesses, from cancer and heart disease to Parkinson’s and pandemic influenza. These efforts have led to therapies that have saved countless lives and improved human health locally, in the region, and across the globe. To learn more, visit