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I may be way out of my depth on this, but isn't this project assuming that there is a 'normative' human brain, and that we all have the same neuron structure?

I know we all have the same general brain regions, and in most of us they function approximately the same. But to go down to the neuronal-level will any single brain be able to give a map that would be useful to the population as a whole? Or are they planning on making some type of composite map from multiple sources?




I used to work in functional brain imaging (fMRI), so perhaps I can shed some light on this. Generally what happens is you take a group of subject, and get "structural" (anatomic) scans of their brain as well as the functional scans showing brain activity for the given task. The structural scans are then run through a statistical "normalization" procedure, which basically does some fancy bending/warping of everyone's brains such that they all line up. Once this is done you apply that normalization function to the functional scans so you can compare everyone. It is also important to note that typically neuroimaging does not go down the neuronal level, the resolution is just not that high. Typically you are looking for brain regions, or sub-regions that correlate with a given activity. Something on the order of millimeters to centimeters. However there are other ways of investigating brain activity, and some of those can go down to the neuronal level.

Here is an example of common software package to do such normalization and analysis: http://www.fil.ion.ucl.ac.uk/spm/


I'm a PhD candidate in neuroscience, I'll take a stab at that.

You highlighted a critically important question in the field. We do all have the same brain structures, and neurons within those structures have similar shape and function, but the exact wiring of the circuits will not be the same for two individuals. Understanding how the structure of circuits leads to behavior, memory, cognition, etc. are the high level goals that the whole field is striving for.

This project seeks to answer quite a bit more than just mapping areas in the brain. I think the name is more of a way to connote that the project seeks to be comprehensive.


isn't this project assuming that there is a 'normative' human brain, and that we all have the same neuron structure?

At a certain resolution the structure of the brain is certainly close to normative, as demonstrated by decades of dissection studies. But when you get down to the axon level, there is a huge variability in connectivity. The open question is: at what level of connectivity (and, importantly, temporal synchronicity) does cognition emerge (or otherwise, depending on your philosophical school).




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