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

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' 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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs