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Mapping the Brain on a Massive Scale

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Brain image

Scientists will use both structural and functional brain imaging to create detailed maps of 1,200 human brains; areas in yellow and red are structurally connected to the area indicated by the blue spot.

David Van Essen, Washington University

A massive new project to scan the brains of 1,200 volunteers could finally give scientists a picture of the neural architecture of the human brain and help them understand the causes of certain neurological and psychological diseases.

The National Institutes of Health announced $40 million in funding this month for the five-year effort, dubbed the Human Connectome Project. Scientists will use new imaging technologies, some still under development, to create both structural and functional maps of the human brain.

The project is novel in its size; most brain-imaging studies have looked at tens to hundreds of brains. Scanning so many people will shed light on the normal variability within the brain structure of healthy adults, which will in turn provide a basis for examining how neural "wiring" differs in such disorders as autism and schizophrenia.

From Technology Review
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