A HOLOGRAM said to be the first of its kind in the world showing connections in the human brain has been produced by Edinburgh-based holographic imaging specialist Holoxica.

The company said its 3D image was a breakthrough in neurological science and would help neurosurgeons and clinicians diagnose and treat a range of conditions including Alzheimer’s’, motor neuron disease, stroke, cancer, tumours and epilepsy.

“We’re really excited to present this kind of image to the medical community and we hope it will be useful and insightful and push the frontiers of medical science,” said Holoxica founder and chief executive Javid Khan.

The hologram shows the brain as a complex network of fibres with different colours indicating distinct neural pathways.

“It’s the wiring of the brain – all the interconnections,” Mr Khan explained. “People have been able to look at an image like this on a screen before, but it hasn’t been done in a hologram in 3D.”

Models of the brain’s pathways have also been created using 3D printing, but these have lacked colour coding to help clinicians interpret disease, he added.

Holoxica said its hologram was the first ever 3D digital hologram of the human brain fibre connections from an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan. These use magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of the inside of the body.

An advanced version of this technique known as functional MRI – or fMRI – is combined with techniques to track nerve fibre pathways and the movement of water molecules inside the brain.

Holograms based on this technology could lead to early diagnosis of normally hard-to-detect degenerative conditions like motor neuron disease, Holoxica said.

“It gives practitioners insights into how the brain is wired because it maps the neural pathways,” Mr Khan said. “It can help with diagnosis in the first instance and lead to ways of managing the condition, depending on what it is. It’s also about monitoring, so when patients have treatment, you can see how effective it is.”

Holoxica is developing a ‘motion holographic video display’ that will allow practitioners to produce and study holograms like these in their workplace. In February the company secured £1 million funding from the European Commission to develop the product, which produces live 3D images floating in mid-air and allows clinicians to 'touch' icons in space and do things like draw in mid-air.

Mr Khan said the company was looking for an additional £1m to trial the first products in hospitals and run the first production batch. Talks are underway with potential investors.

“We want to show that we can take any kind of medical 3D data set and make a hologram – and that we know how to deal with this kind of data,” Mr Khan said. “Basically this is another string to our bow. We’re the first to do this in holographic format and will be the first to do it on our video display, which is coming next.”

The company was founded in 2008 and is based at CodeBase in Edinburgh, the UK’s largest tech incubator. It has five staff and had a turnover of £68,000 last year. Holoxica has also created holograms of the heart, liver and lungs.