Brain 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.
The 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!