A Human Brain Atlas on the Internet

BigBrain is a high resolution three dimensional atlas of the human brain.

Anatomy is the foundation of brain science. Understanding where something happens in the brain often tells us a lot about what happened. Rhythmically active neurons in the brainstem help drive breathing. Neurons in the cortex that respond to sight help us to see. Those that respond to sound help us to hear. Place matters in the brain.

The Allen Brain Atlas has been a pioneer in providing digital mouse brain atlases where scientists may associate data with locations in the brain. A recent article (“BigBrain: An Ultrahigh-Resolution 3D Human Brain Model” published June 21, 2013 in Science) announced a new “free” and “publicly available” human brain atlas named BigBrain.

The BigBrain atlas shows brain tissue at a resolution of 20 micrometers. In contrast, the Allen Brain Atlas displays mouse brain tissue at a resolution of 1 micrometer. Storing a digital record of the human brain recorded at the 1 micrometer resolution would take up about twenty-one thousand terabytes of memory, which would exhaust current computing capabilities for interactive exploration. The brain of a 65 year old female was recorded and saved at the 20 micrometer resolution, which resulted in about one terabyte of data.

You can see from the video above that BigBrain appears to be a stunning human brain atlas. I’ve applied for access to BigBrain but haven’t received confirmation or denial yet so I haven’t been able to experience the atlas first hand. Unfortunately, unlike the Allen Brain Atlas, BigBrain is only available if the system administrators at McGill University provide you access.