Computers and mathematical tools for analyzing vast amounts of data are making the goal of mapping the brain possible, as reported in today’s New York Times.
Professor Deanna Barch leads Washington University’s project, which requires 1,200 healthy people, ages 22 to 35, to spend four hours over two days in a customized MRI machine. The subjects spend another six hours taking tests designed to measure intelligence, basic physical fitness, tasting ability and their emotional state. “In an ideal world, we would have enough tasks to activate every part of the brain. We got pretty close. We’re not perfect, but pretty close,” said Barch.
The data is processed and incorporated into a three-dimensional, interactive map of the healthy human brain, showing structure and function, with detail to one and a half cubic millimeters. The researchers then spend another 10 hours analyzing and storing each person’s data to build a neuroscience first: a baseline database for structure and activity in a healthy brain that can be cross-referenced with personality traits, cognitive skills and genetics. It will be online, in an interactive map available to all.