Brain Science

Neurology's Next Frontier

At the SIGGRAPH technology and computers graphic conference recently, researchers presented a new project that aims to produce a three-dimensional, Google Maps-like guide to the human brain’s structure, which has the potential to revolutionize neurological research. The project, called the Whole Brain Catalog, collects MRI data, theoretical diagrams and photos of stained neurons, and then assembles the data in unified presentation that scientists and animators can understand. With collaboration from scientists and doctors, who can contribute to the open-source site, it may be possible to map all the connections in the brain, which is currently one of the largest challenges for neuroscientists. “My dream is that you can build these simulations at any level of resolution,” said Stephen Larson, a neuroscience researcher at the University of California, San Diego, and member of the team working on the Whole Brain Catalog. The data will allow scientists to run tests electronically, rather than on live subjects, which promises to increase the range of experiments and reduce the cost and time of traditional studies. Since the Whole Brain Catalog model only displays data that scientists generate, it also has the potential to reveal which areas of the brain are the most studied and which areas require future research.