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Saturday, October 03, 2015


Neuroscience: Connectomes make the map

Published online
Working at a variety of scales and with disparate organisms and technologies, researchers are mapping how parts of the brain connect.


Allen Institute for Brain Science
Connections to the thalamus, the brain's relay station, mapped from 80 sites in the cortex.
A newborn baby, well fed and sleepy, is swaddled in a blanket and lying on what looks like a tea tray with a helmet attached to one end. Once the infant falls asleep, researchers pull special tabs on the blanket to ease the baby into the helmet. It is a customized receiver coil used for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a common method for visualizing brains in living people. The researchers slide the baby-holding contraption along a special trolley into the MRI tube and start collecting images.
From about 1,000 such scans, and another 500 of developing fetuses, UK scientists in the Developing Human Connectome Project plan to map how regions of the brain communicate with each other during development. They then hope to work out why preterm babies are at risk for conditions such as autism spectrum disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and perhaps to do similar scans to check whether methods to prevent such disorders are working.

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