A deceased 65-year-old woman has provided scientists with the material for the first super high resolution three-dimensional digital model of the human brain, researchers said Thursday.
The roadmap of the mind was painstakingly created by scientists in Germany and Canada and is 50 times more detailed than the last attempt, containing 100,000 times more data than a typical MRI, they said.
The 3-D map, described in the US journal Science, aims to offer a new perspective for scientists who want to study everything from Alzheimer's to Parkinson's disease and other disorders.
Known as BigBrain, it is "the first ever brain model in 3-D which really presents a realistic human brain with all the cells and all the structures of a human brain," said senior author Karl Zilles, professor at the Julich Aachen Research Alliance in Germany.
It was made from 7,400 sections of a human brain, carefully sliced 20 micrometers thick. The sections were then mounted on slides, stained to reveal cell structures and digitized with a high resolution scanner.
The result is an anatomical scaffold of the brain's structures and pathways, into which scientists can plug further information about live human conditions for detailed study.
"We've raised the level of insight orders of magnitude beyond what was possible at the turn of the 20th century," said Alan Evans, a professor at the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University in Canada.
"This data set will revolutionize our ability to understand internal brain organization."
More information is available at BigBrain.Loris.ca.
The project is the first to create such advanced imagery. Other brain mapping initiatives have been launched by the United States and China.