Scientists Unveil Interactive Atlas of Human Brain

This post is presented by SBE, the Society for Biological Engineering--a global organization of leading engineers and scientists dedicated to advancing the integration of biology with engineering.

a human brain in a jar

The Seattle-based Allen Institute for Brain Science has unveiled a $55 million digital atlas of the human brain, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Available online to researchers, this interactive guide is the first tool to use computer technology to combine detailed anatomical information with findings with extensive genetic information. The atlas was created in part through a wide variety of imaging techniques. Researchers sliced two donated brains each into approximately 9,000 micro-thin slices to record physical properties and structures. On the genetic side of the project, researchers cataloged 1,000 anatomical landmarks and linked those tissues to thousands of genes, according to the report. Details of the history and future of the project from the WSJ:

This first edition of the atlas took four years to compile and, in its preliminary drafts, has already become a research tool for 4,000 scientists who have adopted it to probe brain biology. It builds on computer techniques that the Allen Institute developed during the creation of an interactive atlas of the mouse brain, which it released in 2006. Yet the human brain atlas is far from finished. So far, the online archive is exclusively male. The researchers expect to add eight more brains to the archive by the end of next year, to better account for variations between people. The researchers said that, when completed, the online archive will include one or more female brains.

The brain atlas is available online to scientists studying brain diseases. For the full WSJ article, click here. The article features an informative interview about the human brain atlas. The Allen Institute for Brain Science was founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. For more about its work, see the video below.

What do you think the next big step in brain science will be?

Photos: Brain in jar from Wikipedia; Interactive Human Brain Atlas image, Allen Institute for Brain Science


ehorahan's picture

This is really interesting! Great Post Douglas!

Thanks! I spotted it just this morning. Did you check out the atlas itself? Pretty cool that it's so accessible.