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A Detailed 3-D Atlas of a Human Brain

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A model of the human brain.

BigBrain, an electronic model created by European Human Brain project researchers, enables exploration of the brain in three dimensions.


European Human Brain Project researchers have developed BigBrain, an electronic model that will enable scientists to explore the anatomy of a single brain in three dimensions at far greater detail than previously was possible.

The researchers imaged the brain of a healthy deceased 65-year-old woman using magnetic resonance imaging and then embedded the brain in paraffin wax and cut it into 7,400 slices, each just 20 micrometers thick. The researchers then took on "the technical challenge of trying to stitch together 7,500 sheets of Saran wrap" into a 3D object using digital-image processing, says McGill University professor Alan Evans.

The project represents one step toward realizing neuroscientists' aspiration of looking at the human brain "with the sort of cellular resolution [with which] we can look at mouse or fly brains," says Harvard University researcher Joshua Sanes.

Evans notes that one of the major goals of several brain initiatives worldwide, including the European project and the U.S.'s recently announced BRAIN Initiative, is to integrate different kinds of data about brain structure and function, and to create computational models of the brain to study processes such as childhood development or neurological diseases.

From Technology Review
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Abstracts Copyright © 2013 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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