/A “Google Earth” for the Brain Has Been Published

A “Google Earth” for the Brain Has Been Published

Summary: This new human brain atlas features close to 250 structurally distinct areas, each one based on the analysis of 10 brains. More than 24000 extremely thin brain sections were digitized, assembled in 3D and mapped by experts.

Original author and publication date: Human Brain Project – July 31, 2020

Futurizonte Editor’s Note: This new digital brain helps to better interpret images of he brain, thus helping patients with brain diseases. Also, it will help to connect the brain with a computer.

Image of the Julich-Brain Atlas - Credit: Forschungszentrum Juelich / Katrin Amunts
Image of the Julich-Brain Atlas – Credit: Forschungszentrum Juelich / Katrin Amunts

From the article:

“Julich-Brain” is the name of the first 3D-atlas of the human brain that reflects the variability of the brain’s structure with microscopic resolution. The atlas features close to 250 structurally distinct areas, each one based on the analysis of 10 brains. More than 24000 extremely thin brain sections were digitized, assembled in 3D and mapped by experts. As part of the new EBRAINS infrastructure of the European Human Brain Project, the atlas serves as an interface to link different information about the brain in a spatially precise way. German researchers led by Prof. Katrin Amunts have now presented the new brain atlas in the renowned journal Science.

Under the microscope, it can be seen that the human brain is not uniformly structured, but divided into clearly distinguishable areas. They differ in the distribution and density of nerve cells and in function. With the Julich-Brain, researchers led by Katrin Amunts now present the most comprehensive digital map of the cellular architecture and make it available worldwide via the EBRAINS research infrastructure.

“On the one hand, the digital brain atlas will help to interpret the results of neuroimaging studies, for example of patients, more accurately”, says Katrin Amunts, Director at the German Research Center Juelich and Professor at the University of Duesseldorf. “On the other hand, it is becoming the basis for a kind of ‘Google Earth’ of the brain – because the cellular level is the best interface for linking data about very different facets of the brain.

A Google Earth of the Brain

In this way, the researchers are making a significant contribution to the Human Brain Project (HBP), for which the European Commission just approved 150 million Euro until 2023. “Together with many partners in this project, we are building EBRAINS as a novel high-tech research infrastructure for the neurosciences,” says Amunts, who is also the Scientific Research Director of the project.

More than a quarter century of research has gone into the 3D atlas. Dozens of experts have used image analysis and mathematical algorithms to evaluate the tissue sections over the years and determine the boundaries between brain areas, which together make up a length of almost 2000 meters.

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