NIH Blueprint: The Human Connectome Project

News and Updates

Press Releases,Project News,Recommended Reading,The Science of Connectome | July 20, 2016

Nature article: Cortical brain maps at the highest resolution to date

Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 11.21.20 AM

Matthew Glasser, Ph.D. of the Van Essen lab at Washington University in St. Louis.

Major new work based on Human Connectome Project data and methods published in July 20 issue of Nature promises to be a boon to neuroanalysis research for years to come.

The study, A multi-modal parcellation of human cerebral cortex, led by Matthew Glasser and David Van Essen of Washington University, used information derived from structural and functional MRI data collected on 210 HCP subjects to create a new 180 region per hemisphere map of the cerebral cortex of the human brain. Further improvements to previous maps were achieved by using the multimodal surface matching algorithm pioneered by HCP investigators at Oxford U to precisely align the individual brains before analysis. Results were validated and the maps applied to individuals from an independent set of 210 HCP subjects.

Although the new map will be very important in raising the accuracy of work to delineate the connections between brain regions by the HCP and others, it will continue to improve as more, higher resolution data is added to the analyses.

As Glasser told the Washington University Record:

“We ended up with 180 areas in each hemisphere, but we don’t expect that to be the final number,” Glasser said. “In some cases, we identified a patch of cortex that probably could be subdivided, but we couldn’t confidently draw borders with our current data and techniques. In the future, researchers with better methods will subdivide that area. We focused on borders we are confident will stand the test of time.”

and added in Nature:

“We’re thinking of this as version 1.0,” says Glasser. “That doesn’t mean it’s the final version, but it’s a far better map than the ones we’ve had before.”

The parcellation and Connectome Workbench scenes for each of the main article and supplemental figures are being shared in the new Brain Analysis Library of Spatial maps and Atlases (BALSA) database being developed by the Van Essen lab at Washington University.

The parcellation for use as a reference is most easily accessed in the Glasser_et_al_2016_HCP_MMP1.0_5_StudyDataset.scene study dataset.

Nature produced a video highlighting the work in the context of previous brain mapping efforts:

In addition to the article itself, Nature is distributing a wealth of supplemental information, as David Van Essen told the Washington University Record:

“We were able to persuade Nature to put online almost 200 extra pages of detailed information on each of the 180 regions as well as all of the algorithms we used to align the brains and create the map,” Van Essen said. “We think it will serve the scientific community best if they can dive down and get these maps onto their computer screens and explore as they see fit.”

The seminal work has also garnered much press:

B.T. Thomas Yeo & Simon B. Eickhoff authored a Nature News and Views article.

Nature News: Human Brain Mapped in Unprecedented Detail

Washington University Record: Map provides detailed picture of how the brain is organized

NIH News: Connectome map more than doubles human cortex’s known regions

New York Times: Updated Brain Map Identifies Nearly 100 New Regions

Wall Street Journal: Brain Mappers Create a Detailed Atlas of the Human Cortex

The Scientist: Mapping the Human Connectome

Popular Science: This New, Ultra-Detailed Map Of The Brain Could Change Medicine

Wired: A New Map of the Brain Redraws the Boundaries of Neuroscience


Recommended Reading | April 2, 2013

The BRAIN Initiative: Van Essen provides perspective on NPR

NIH Director Francis Collins introduces President Obama at the BRAIN Initiative announcement. Credit:REUTERS/Jason Reed

Today, President Obama announced plans for a long-term project to map the human brain at all levels, from individual neurons to complex neural circuits, called the BRAIN Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies). The President is proposing to devote $100 million to start the Initiative as part of his FY2014 Budget.

An excerpt from the NIH announcement on the BRAIN Initiative:

By accelerating the development and application of innovative technologies, researchers will be able to produce a revolutionary new dynamic picture of the brain that, for the first time, shows how individual cells and complex neural circuits interact in both time and space.

HCP Co-PI David Van Essen was asked about his thoughts on the BRAIN Initiative by NPR’s Jonathan Hamilton in his story “Obama’s Plan To Explore The Brain A ‘Most Audacious Project'” that aired today on the program All Things Considered.

Van Essen is optimistic about the Initiative, but cautious about the BRAIN Initiative’s incredibly ambitious goal to understand the dynamics and function of all 100 billion neurons in the human brain. He says, that monitoring the activity of the entire brain at the neuronal level is much more likely to succeed in organisms with smaller brains “like mice and fruit flies, and other animals”, he adds, “but I honestly don’t think it will be realistic to have that kind of sensitivity for mapping the human brain”.

Van Essen also commented that mapping the human brain as outlined in the BRAIN Initiative will be much more difficult than the goal of sequencing the human genome was for the Human Genome Project, which was successfully completed in 2003. One big distinction is due to the inherently large differences between individual people’s brains, which will make learning about how the brain works much more complex, Van Essen says:

Whether you are talking about one individual human brain to another human brain, or one mouse brain to a monkey brain to a human brain, the differences are vastly greater than the differences in the genome.

Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, who was present for the President’s announcement, and also was interviewed for the NPR story, acknowledges that the BRAIN Initiative is ambitious: “to understand how the human brain works is about the most audacious scientific project you could imagine, it’s the most complicated structure in the known universe.”

Despite its lofty ambitions, Dr. Collins is fully behind the Initiative’s promise for scientific advancement, adding, “Five years ago, this might have seemed out of reach. Five years from now, it will seem like we waited too late to take advantage of the opportunity.”

Project News | October 11, 2010

Podcast: profiles the Human Connectome Project’s Kerri Smith interviews the NIH’s Mike Huerta, as well as Van Weeden from the MGH-UCLA consortium and David Van Essen of the WashU-UMinn consortium of the Human Connectome Project, for the latest episode of NeuroPod. In the interview, we get a top-level view of the project-wide goals of the Human Connectome Project.

The feature, titled “Connecting the Dots,” begins at 13:18 of this podcast.

Other topics include recent research on migraines (0:48), the possibilities of multiple evolutions of the brain (6:51), and the storage of emotional information our subconscious (18:39).

You can download the full podcast here.

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