Scientists Map Brain White-Matter
October 19, 2012

Scientists Use MRIs To Map White-Matter In Human Brain

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

A team of scientists has built the first roadmap of the white-matter microstructure in the human brain.

The project, called CONNECT, was drawn up from leading research centers in the countries across Europe.

Investigators met in Paris on Friday after three years of research to announce the conclusion of the project and present a paper on the findings.

The new atlas of the white-matter microstructure combines three-dimensional images from the MRI scans of 100 brains of volunteers. CONNECT developed advanced MRI methods in order to achieve this.

"The UCL team use the latest computer modeling algorithms and hardware to invent new imaging techniques," Professor Daniel Alexander, a CONNECT committee member from the University College London Department of Computer Science, said in a statement. "The techniques we devised were key to realizing the new CONNECT brain atlas."

He said the imaging techniques reveal new info about brain structure that helps scientists understand how low-level cellular architecture relate to high-level thought processes.

Biomedical research teams across the globe studying brain science rely on a brain atlas produced by histological methods on the brains of a few individuals who donated their bodies to science.

The new atlas simulated the impossible process of painstakingly examining every inch of brain tissue with a microscope.

The key novelty in the atlas is the mapping of microscopic features within the white matter. The results of the project provide new depth and accuracy in our understanding of the human brain in health and disease.

The atlas describes the brain's microstructure in a standardized space to exploit the wealth of knowledge it contains. It contains a variety of new images that represent different microscopic tissue characteristics.

The team believes the images will serve as the reference standard of future brain studies in both medicine and basic neuroscience.

CONNECT could facilitate and promote future research into white-matter structure and function as well.

The new MRI methods developed by the researchers allow for scientists to visualize the microstructure of the living brain over the whole brain for the first time. This opens up doors to a new understanding of our most complex organ.

The team hopes to use the technology that they have developed to study the dynamics and time dependence of the microstructure in white-matter.