A centerpiece of the 3-D human brain atlas published

A centerpiece of EBRAINS' human brain atlas is presented in 'Science'
The architecture of the nerve cells changes at the border between two areas (dotted line). This is the basis for mapping. The areas of the brains studied are transferred in the Julich-Brain Atlas and superimposed. Since the areas between the individual brains vary, probability maps are calculated (right brain hemisphere; red means a high probability and therefore a low variability). The left brain hemisphere shows the map of maximum probabilities for simultaneous representation of several brain areas. Credit: Forschungszentrum Juelich / Katrin Amunts

Julich-Brain is the name of the first 3-D-atlas of the human brain that reflects the variability of the brain’s structure with microscopic resolution. The atlas features close to 250 structurally distinct areas, each one based on the analysis of 10 brains. More than 24,000 extremely thin brain sections were digitized, assembled in 3-D and mapped by experts. As part of the new EBRAINS infrastructure of the European Human Brain Project, the atlas serves as an interface to link information about the brain in a spatially precise way. German researchers led by Prof. Katrin Amunts have now presented the new brain atlas in the journal Science.

Under the microscope, it can be seen that the is not uniformly structured, but divided into clearly distinguishable areas. These areas differ in the distribution and density of nerve cells and in function. With the Julich-Brain, researchers led by Katrin Amunts now present the most comprehensive digital map of the ‘s cellular architecture and make it available worldwide via the EBRAINS research infrastructure.

“On the one hand, the digital brain atlas will help to interpret the results of neuroimaging studies, for example, of patients, more accurately,” says Katrin Amunts, director at the German Research Center Juelich and Professor at the University of Duesseldorf. “On the other hand, it is becoming the basis for a kind of ‘Google Earth’ of the brain—because the is the best interface for linking data about very different facets of the brain.”

A Google Earth of the Brain

3D animation of the atlas. Credit: Amunts et al., Science (2020)

In this way, the researchers are making a s