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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened 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.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
AppleAndroid