Cognitive Daily

i-7ad37234603404ed8d8f46762fdc24fa-brain.gifBrain Maps offers over 50 terabytes of high-resolution pictures of brains from several different organisms. You’re probably familiar with the brain off to the right — it’s good ol’ Homo sapiens.

i-6ec3437b03b461f065a42a59dd3c8c88-brain2.gifThe brain at left may be a bit less readily identifiable. It’s Tyto alba, or the barn owl.

Perhaps the most impressive feature of the Brain Maps site isn’t its elegant interface or its massive database — it’s its liberal use policy. Anyone can use the database for personal or scientific use, no questions asked. Anyone can use screenshots from the site for any use, even commercial uses, as long as the image is credited appropriately. An article on Science Daily describes the database’s goal:

“Many users have described it as a ‘Google Maps’ of the brain,” said Shawn Mikula, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Davis who is first author on a paper describing the work.

The high-resolution maps will enable researchers to use “virtual microscopy” to compare healthy brains with others, looking at structure, gene expression and the distribution of different proteins. They will enable better understanding of the organization of normal brains, and could help researchers in identifying fine morphological and chemical abnormalities underlying Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases, Mikula said.

Plus it’s just fun to look at pictures of brains!



  1. #1 Ted
    February 28, 2007

    Absolutely amazing! The brain is truly Nature’s most beautiful and finely detailed work of art. My only suggestion is that many brains could use some more labels or annotations.

  2. #2 Dave Munger
    February 28, 2007

    Good point, Ted. One nice thing about this system is that since it’s an open database, others can create atlases that do include more labeling. Hopefully someone will take that project on in the near future!

  3. #3 Shaheen Lakhan
    March 2, 2007

    Wonderful contribution Dave! However, for those interested in pathological scans, this resource does not have them. I recommend Harvard’s Whole Brain Atlas for many disorders, including brain tumors, Alzheimer’s, and multiple sclerosis. Nonetheless, this will keep me up tonight analyzing them for abnormalities. Enjoy!

  4. #4 Mark
    April 20, 2008

    The brain is the “boss” or “superior” of the body. It’s what makes the difference between someone who is weak, crippled, demented, inferior, and susceptible to death versus a person who grows highly skilled, finely co-ordinated, very strong and successful in society, owns a house and business, is attractive, is tough and gets married, big, tall, and strong with growth hormones.

  5. These are some amazing pictures.

    Amazing all of the information that minds hold!

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