On October 19th, an international group of researchers from all over Europe presented the results of a coöperative project they worked on for years. Funded by the European Union with a budget of 2,4 million euros, the group, called CONNECT, has developed a completely new map of the human brain. It is now possible for many professionals to look at brain tissue in a way that is more detailed than ever. It might well be that this project, therefore, lies at the basis of huge new developments in neuroscience and medicine in the upcoming decade.
Three years ago, the CONNECT researchers started their ambitious project. But their work did not just consist of making new brain images of their 100 volunteers. By developing new and extremely advanced MRI-techniques, their brain measuring results are more accurate than ever before. In the new atlas, it is possible to view a simulated area of brain tissue as small as one mm2. To enable this amazing high accuracy, the developed softare combines microscale information, like average cell size and density in white matter, into the final simulated brain images.
Because the atlas combines an enormous amount of detailed information with a more practical, visual dimension, it is usable both for fundamental brain research as well as for less fundamentally trained specialists, like physicians. Because the new techniques reveal such detailed information, the CONNECT researchers expect that their systems can help in tracing new clues about how our brain functions. But it might also help in revealing what happens in neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s.