News / Science & Technology

Scientists Create 3D Roadmap of Human Brain

Researchers use a special tool called a microtome to cut slices from a brain preserved in paraffin wax into tiny slivers 20-micrometers thick. (Courtesy of Amunts, Zilles, Evans et al.)
Researchers use a special tool called a microtome to cut slices from a brain preserved in paraffin wax into tiny slivers 20-micrometers thick. (Courtesy of Amunts, Zilles, Evans et al.)
Rosanne Skirble
The nooks and crannies of the human brain are now on display in 3-D, offering scientists an invaluable tool in the quest to better understand brain form and function. 

The project is called BigBrain. In three dimensions and intricate detail, it reveals the anatomy of the brain as never seen before.   

“These are images of a 3-D reconstructed human brain with a spatial resolution of 0.02 millimeters. So this is even thinner than a thin human hair, and it allows [us] to see the microstructure of the human brain in 3-D space,” said Katrin Amunts, director of the Vogt Institute for Brain Research at Germany's Heinrich Heine University, a partner in the project. 

BigBrain Project Provides 3-D Roadmap of Human Brain
BigBrain Project Provides 3-D Roadmap of Human Braini
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       The scientists would like to understand the relationship within the structure of the brain, its function and behavior.

"It is necessary to have all the reference brains, which have this very high microscopic resolution and therefore we created such [a] reference brain,” said Amunts. 

The BigBrain model on Amunts’ computer screen belonged to a 65-year-old woman who had no neurological problems. 

To create it, the researchers first cut the brain into 7,400 slices, each 20 micrometers thick, then stained each slice with a special dye so all the cell bodies were visible.  After that, the slices were digitized and carefully realigned. 

“This involved us in both manual activity in shifting broken pieces of the data into the right spatial location and then a large amount of computational analysis," said Alan Evans at McGill University, who was in charge of digital reconstruction, "which allowed us to overcome the distortions, both the geometric and optical, to reassemble the data into a coherent three-dimensional form.”  

The resolution on the reference brain is 50 times greater than the standard brain scans currently available. Its images allow scientists to better visualize what’s happening in certain areas of the brain. BigBrain paves the way to understanding how the brain’s anatomy contributes to language, learning and other processes, or how its shape relates to chemical signaling or gene expression. 

Amunts says BigBrain offers, for example, a platform to measure the thickness of the cerebral cortex, which changes as one ages and has been associated with neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's. 

“So having a gold standard, reliable data, on how thick the cortex indeed is will help to perform such studies in humans, in living human subjects, where the cortical thickness is also measured,” she said. 

Access to BigBrain is free online and will be available to the public. Her team is now at work on two more model brains that capture even more details of individual cells.
Video from the BigBrain projecti
X
June 20, 2013 11:53 PM
The nooks and crannies of the human brain are now on display in 3-D, offering scientists an invaluable tool in the quest to better understand brain form and function. The project is called BigBrain. In three dimensions and intricate detail, it reveals the anatomy of the brain as never seen before. The resolution on the reference brain is 50 times greater than the standard brain scans currently available. research was published on June 20 in the journal Science

You May Like

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
June 24, 2013 3:55 AM
I think technique to cut brain into 20 micrometers is amazing.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid