The Project

Underpinning virtually all major discoveries in neuroscience for the last 100 years has been an increasingly detailed understanding of the architecture and connectivity of the central nervous system (CNS). The detailed morphology and connections of the brain and spinal cord of humans and experimental animals provide a coherent framework on which to test hypotheses from synaptic function to treatments of Alzheimer’s disease.

We will “Caress the Detail” of the living human brain and constructing the highest resolution most comprehensive MRI Atlas of the in Vivo Human Brain.

Our Aims

Aim 1: To image the human brain in vivo at high resolution (0.3 mm) with 3T and 7T MRI hardware.

Aim 2: To segment the MRI volume and identify the approximately 1200 structures of the human brain

Aim 3: To make available (a) open access high-resolution templates and segmentations that allow clinical and scientific data to be aligned into our reference frame and (b) a 3D digital atlas optimised for modern tablet computers, for convenient use in research and clinical practice.

Since its slow start in the 1980s, with worldwide only a handful experimental systems in 1984, MRI has become a major research tool, and more so an instrument of the clinic where approximately 2,000 new MRI machines are purchased annually. About 25% of all clinical MRI examinations are of the brain (Rinck, 2014). The capabilities and quality of MRI has improved and modern clinical systems are capable of an amazing variety of images in high quality.

To be successful, atlases need to meet the requirements of the user. A key requirement is that the atlas depicts what the user sees in daily practice. Another key requirement is accuracy and comprehensiveness. The Rat Brain in Stereotaxic Coordinates (Paxinos and Watson) meets these requirements and is the third most cited book in all of science. It depicts the entire brain, has accurate stereotaxic coordinates and delineations and displays histological sections which are exactly what atlas users see in front of them from their own work. The Mai, Majtanic and Paxinos (2016) Atlas of the Human Brain is comprehensive, accurate and second to none in detail. However, this book is not on the desk of every neuroscientist working on the human brain (unlike the rat atlas for its community). The reason is that the large majority of those working on the human brain use in vivo MRI of subjects or patients. To meet their needs and support their research, the future atlas needs to be as comprehensive and as accurate, but also to be an atlas of in vivo MRI.