First Results From Brain Mapping Project Ready For Download

Mar 5, 2013

A map of brain regions associated with language processing in the human cerebral cortex. Yellow and red regions are activated by listening to stories, whereas green and blue regions are more strongly activated by doing mathematical calculations.
Credit D. Barch, M. Harms, G. Burgess for the WU-Minn HCP consortium.

An international brain mapping project led by Washington University has released its first set of results.

The Human Connectome Project is a five-year effort to study brain circuits and how the wiring of the brain relates to human behavior.

Project researchers are working to obtain high-resolution brain scans of 1,200 healthy adults, along with information about their cognitive abilities, personalities, and other characteristics.

Study co-lead, Wash U neuroscientist David Van Essen, says the goal is to gain insight into how our brains work.

"What makes us think, and why are some of us better at mathematical tasks, and others more artistic, and all of the countless ways in which each healthy adult is a unique personality," Van Essen says.

Van Essen says these data on healthy individuals will also serve as a baseline for comparison in future studies.

"We hope that in future years there will be separate projects to probe what's going wrong in the brains of individuals with schizophrenia, with autism, with Alzheimer's, and with countless other brain disorders," Van Essen says.

Essen says data from 68 study participants is now ready for download, with more to be made available every three months. All of the data from the Human Connectome Project are being made freely available to scientists worldwide.

Follow Véronique LaCapra on Twitter: @KWMUScience