Research highlight

Neuroscience: A new map of the human brain


July 21, 2016

Nearly 100 previously unreported regions of the human cerebral cortex are identified in a new map of the brain reported in a paper published online this week in Nature.

The development of an accurate and high-resolution map of the microstructural architecture (or local structure), connectivity and function of the human brain has long been an elusive objective of neuroscience, owing to technical challenges. Most existing maps are based on only one of these, or other related, neurological properties and on small numbers of individuals. These limitations result in ‘blurry’ maps, which have not been reproducible across individuals.

Matthew Glasser, David Van Essen and colleagues created a precise map of the brain using multiple types of imaging data of 210 healthy young adults from the Human Connectome Project. Their work divides each hemisphere of the brain into 180 specific cortical areas, 97 of which are newly described. The authors use a machine-learning technique to validate their map in an independent group of 210 additional participants and report that their approach accurately identifies these regions in new participants despite individual variability.

The authors suggest that their robust neuroanatomical map - referred to as Human Connectome Project Multi-Modal Parcellation version 1.0 (HCP-MMP1.0), with the anticipation of future refinements - and the ability to apply it to any individual could have clinical applications in neurosurgery and may also yield new insights into the cognitive evolution of humans by making comparisons with nonhuman primates.

The study represents a major advance in human brain mapping, write Thomas Yeo and Simon Eickhoff in an accompanying News & Views article. “It is now up to researchers to use the anatomical framework provided, compare it with alternative approaches to mapping the human brain, and populate the defined areas with functional and disease related information,” they conclude.

doi: 10.1038/nature18933

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