Neuroscientists have made remarkable progress in recent years toward understanding how the brain works. And in coming years, Europe’s Human Brain Project will attempt to create a computational simulation of the human brain, while the U.S. BRAIN Initiative will try to create a wide-ranging picture of brain activity. These ambitious projects will greatly benefit from a new resource: detailed and comprehensive maps of the brain’s structure and its different regions.
As part of the Human Brain Project, an international team of researchers led by German and Canadian scientists has produced a three-dimensional atlas of the brain that has 50 times the resolution of previous such maps. The atlas, which took a decade to complete, required slicing a brain into thousands of thin sections and digitally stitching them back together with the help of supercomputers. Able to show details as small as 20 micrometers, roughly the size of many human cells, it is a major step forward in understanding the brain’s three-dimensional anatomy.