'atlas of the brain' Scientists can unlock our mind's secrets

Scientists create first ‘atlas of the brain’ – and release it online so researchers across the world can unlock our mind’s secrets

  • Brains donated following the death of three men will serve as baseline for interactive map
  • Creators share the work with the world in the hopes of collaborative research into gene structure of brain
Mapping: Scientists spent four years on the $50m project to link a number of genes with the site on the brain that they correspond to

Scientists have created a comprehensive and interactive ‘atlas of the brain’ – and have opened it up to the entire internet to help in neurological research.

The Allen Institute for Brain Science, based in Seattle, created the atlas so that other researchers can compare and contrast their own findings from brain scans and genetic surveys, with the hope that having a ‘baseline’ to work from will unveil more secrets about psychiatric conditions.

The atlas was created from the scans of three ‘clinically unremarkable’ brains – donated following the deaths of a 24-year-old and 39-year-old man, and half a brain from a third man.

There are more than 20,000 genes in the human genome, and around 84 per cent of them are active within the human brain.

To create the atlas, the scientists first of all scanned the brains, before chopping them into small pieces. For each piece, they scanned for and recorded the activity levels of the 20,000 genes.


When the scans of the two complete brains were compared to each other, the team found what they believe is a ‘genetic blueprint’ for how the brain may be mapped out – with so many similarities in gene placement and usage.

Their next aim is to scan a female brain to see how it compares to the other gender.

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One response to “ 'atlas of the brain' Scientists can unlock our mind's secrets ”

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