NIH Blueprint: The Human Connectome Project

News and Updates

Project News,Recommended Reading | January 6, 2014

NY Times articles provide an “inside-the-scanner” look at HCP

The largest scale effort is the Human Connectome Project, involving a consortium of institutions here and abroad

A 3D rendering of reporter Jim Gorman’s brain constructed from his HCP structural MRI scans

Although many start their careers as scientists, it’s rare that a science reporter actually gets to participate in a scientific project. Last summer, New York Times reporter Jim Gorman got that chance, and wrote about it in two articles published today in the New York Times.

The Human Connectome Project hosted Gorman and his videographer at Washington University in St. Louis to get first hand experience with what it feels like to be a participant in the project and shoot a video about the experience.

In the article “The Brain, in Exquisite Detail”, the reporter profiles the project through conversations with HCP investigator Deanna Barch, director of the team that guides participants through the battery of in-scanner and out-of-scanner tests used for HCP. In the video, Dr. Barch explains:

What we’re doing in this project is pretty different in a couple [of] ways. We have really state-of-the-art techniques and equipment that are going to let us do this in a much finer-grained way than has ever been done before.

We’re going to be studying approximately 1,200 individuals across a wide range of things like education levels, and income levels, people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds, so we can have a much better sense of the kind of “true normal” range of brain connections …

Some of it is just basic science, trying to understand how the brain works and how the brain contributes to how we behave, but a lot of it has clinical application.

In “A Search for Self in a Brain Scan”, Gorman offers a more personal, and philosophical angle on what it is like to be scanned and, ultimately, to be able to look at images of your own brain.

Gorman was treated to several hours of MRI scanning, physical, behavioral, and cognitive tests, just as if he were one of the 1,200 participants being scanned for the HCP. Between scans, he talked with HCP investigators and research assistants about what he was experiencing, what can be learned from the data we’re collecting, and the significant effort required to process the data and make it available to the public.

A few examples of detailed brain visualizations afforded from the high resolution of the HCP MRI scans are featured, along with Jim Gorman’s journey through the scanner, in the article’s video:

Tags: , , , ,
Posted by Jenn Elam @ 9:20 am

Recommended Reading | August 27, 2010

NY Times Article: “Rare Sharing of Data Leads to Progress on Alzheimer’s”

One of the tenets of the Human Connectome Project is that the data we collect can only begin to be understood during the 5-year lifecycle of our initial grant. Indeed, the data we collect will be made public, to facilitate many future studies by scientists all over the globe. This is a fundamental part of the project charter as defined by the NIH.

As this article by Gina Kolata in the New York Times tells us, it’s a highly successful model for research in the new, networked world of science.

In 2003, a group of scientists and executives from the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, the drug and medical-imaging industries, universities and nonprofit groups joined in a project that experts say had no precedent: a collaborative effort to find the biological markers that show the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in the human brain.​

The key to the Alzheimer’s project was an agreement as ambitious as its goal: not just to raise money, not just to do research on a vast scale, but also to share all the data, making every single finding public immediately, available to anyone with a computer anywhere in the world.

The article in full tells how the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) came to be, and how its unusual (in the academic research community) “open-source” model of data sharing has helped drive fruitful results much faster than might have been expected.

Read the article: Sharing of Data Leads to Progress on Alzheimer’s

As a noteworthy aside, the data repository for the ADNI is provided by the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging (LONI) at UCLA, who are also working under the NIH’s Blueprint for Neuroscience Research, collaborating with Massachusets General Hospital to build and refine a next-generation 3T MR scanner.