Brain Mapping Over 25 Years Old

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BBCNews reports that for the first time, researchers have developed a high-resolution 3D digital model of the human brain.  It has been dubbed the “Big Brain.” Researchers are now able to view the brain structure in microscopic detail.

The brain of a deceased woman was used.  The brain was dissected into 7,400 topographic slices.   Each slice was less than the size of a strand of human hair.  They were stained to highlight anatomical details and then scanned to a computer.

The image has amplified by 250,000 times current views of the brain recorded in hospitals.  .

The project took ten years to complete.

s a result of this model scientists will be able to zoom in on any area they wish and obtain a clear image.    The resolution is so high that they will be able to see clusters of brain cells and even some large individual cells. It is being made available to scientists around the world.  This model is akin to a scaffold, says CNN News, for information about the brain, including its organization.   .

The lead author of the report, published in Science, is Karl Zilles of the Juelich Aachen Research Alliance in Juelich, Germany. The model will be available to neuroscientists for free, enabling them in their research.  The model has already been published in the journal Science.

Yahoo News has reported that the resolution will reveal clusters of brain cells and even some large individual cells.  The average human brain has about 6 trillion cells, including about 100 billion neurons, which are cells that send and receive electro-chemical signals between the brain and nervous system. There are also glial cells, far more numerous than neurons, which provide support functions for the neurons.  Neurons vary in size from 4 microns (.004 mm) to 100 microns (.1 mm) in diameter.

But brain mapping has been going on at least since the late 1980s.  At that time, the United States Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science was commissioned to establish a panel to investigate and gather neuroscientific data that had already been obtained by the use of structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), diffusion MRI (dMRI), magnetoencephalography (MEG), electroencephalography (EEG), and positron emission tomography (PET).

There have been other efforts of brain mapping to advance the understanding of the relationship between structure and function in the human brain. These results may lead to knowledge of the physical processes that underlie sensation, attention, and cognition, which may be applicable surgical intervention to the treatment of psychological and psychiatric disorders (www.brainmapping.org).

Because such conditions as DD, OCD, anxiety, depression, learning disabilities, traumatic brain injury, seizure disorder, and Alzheimer’s disease have distinct brainwave “signatures,” brain mapping may be a useful tool in treatment in altering brainwave activity and aiding in treatment (Northeast Center for Special Care).

The work of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science led to the establishment of the Human Brain Project, dedicated to the charting of both healthy and diseased brains in order to investigate memory, learning, aging, and the effects of drugs on various populations in the treatment of  schizophrenia, autism, and clinical depression.  The mapping would involve the anatomy, physiology, perfusion (the process of delivery of blood to biological tissue) and phenotypes (observable characteristics and traits) of the human brain (Wikipedia).

A means of reading” the map of the brain has been developed by means of color coding of normal (green) excessive (red) and diminished (blue) activity

Wikipedia reports that in 2010 the Supreme Court of India declared brain mapping, lie detector tests and narcoanalysis to be unconstitutional, violating Article 20 (3) of the Indian Fundamental Right.  The Court held that these techniques could not be forcefully conducted on a living person without consent.

There was a previous research project about 20 years ago called the “Visible Human Project,” conducted by the U. S. National Library of Medicine (NML), in which the bodies of a man and woman were similarly sliced and photographed, creating an anatomical reference for study.   It began in 1989, and data collection was completed in 1994.   Like the 3-D digital project recently announced, it provides three-dimensional representations of the normal male and female human bodies.

There is also the Human Genome Project (HGP), an international scientific research project with a primary goal of identifying and delineating 20,000–25,000 genes of the human genome.   The Project produced the first complete sequences of individual human genomes. As of 2012, thousands of human genomes have been sequenced, and any more have been mapped, albeit at lower levels of  resolution. This project was  funded  by the US Department of Energy’s Office of Health and Environmental Research in 1987 as a 15-year project.  Like the recent digital mapping of the brain, these results have been made freely available to scientists in anthropology, forensics and other branches of science.

The high-resolution digital imaging of the brain is the latest effort of scientists to examine the innermost workings of the human body and gain insight into its order and disorder.

 

 

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