As you might expect, quite a few news stories focusing on the Human Connectome Project have hit the wires, following the NIH’s announcement of the $30 million dollar grant award to the WashU-UMinn consortium, and an additional $10 million dollar grant award to the MGH-UCLA group. Here’s a roundup of the most prominent features:
It took cartographers and explorers thousands of years to map every nook, cranny, and crevasse of planet Earth. Now, a consortium of researchers from across the U.S. is going to try to map the entire human brain in just five. Working with $30 million and just half a decade, the Human Connectome Project aims to create a first-of-its-kind map of the brain’s complex circuitry, detailing every connection linking thousands of different regions of the brain.
Washington University Record: $30 Million Dollar Project will Map the Brain’s Wiring
“This effort will have a major impact on our understanding of the healthy adult human brain,” says lead investigator David Van Essen, PhD, the Edison Professor and head of the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology at Washington University. “It will also enable future projects that probe what changes in brain circuits underlie a broad variety of disorders, such as autism and schizophrenia.”
The project will map voxels, small patches of brain tissue, one to two millimeters on a side, that each contain as many as one million neurons. Bundles of long nerve cell branches from each voxel extend in complex trajectories, connecting cells in one voxel to those in others.
“At its essence, the human connectome is a description of the full pattern of connections between each brain region and every other brain region,” says Van Essen.
Med City News: University of Minnesota researcher to lead $30M brain study
Kamil Ugurbil, director of the school’s Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR), will help oversee the Human Connectome Project, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Blueprint for Neuroscience Research.
“On a scale never before attempted, this highly coordinated effort will use state-of-the-art imaging instruments, analysis tools and informatics technologies — and all of the resulting data will be freely shared with the research community,” Dr. Michael Huerta, director of the initiative, said in a statement.
MN Daily: U Team to Map Brain
Ugurbil and his team will use the currently incomplete $53.2 million expansion to the CMRR facility in the Biomedical Discovery District. The new facility will house a 10.5 Tesla magnet “capable of delivering the sharpest images ever seen through magnetic resonance imaging technology,” according to a press release.
The Washington University/Minnesota team will map the connectomes in each of 1,200 healthy adults comprising twins and their siblings from 300 families. All-told, the $30 million five-year project will involve 33 collaborators from nine research centers including Oxford University, Indiana University, University of California, Berkeley, Warwick University in the U.K., University d’Annunzio in Italy, and the Ernst Strungmann Institute in Germany. Data will be made accessible via a customized Connectome Database Neuroinformatics Platform.
The maps will show the anatomical and functional connections between parts of the brain for each individual and will be related to behavioral test data. Comparing the connectomes and genetic data of genetically identical twins with fraternal twins will reveal the relative contributions of genes and environment in shaping brain circuitry and pinpoint relevant genetic variation. The maps will also shed light on how brain networks are organized.
Minneapolis Star-Tribune: U gets $5.5 million to study brain function
Softpedia: Map of the Human Brain in the Works