If you thought the human genome project was impressive its scope and scale. think about the human connectome project.
I recently shared with you the fruit fly brain atlas, comprised of about 100,000 neurons, and compared it to the human brain with some 100 billion neurons.
The first high resolution images of the “connectedness” of the human brain are beginning to emerge:
Mapping of the human connectome offers a unique opportunity to understand the complete details of neural connectivity. The Human Connectome Project (HCP) is a project to construct a map of the complete structural and functional neural connections in vivo and in various individuals. The HCP represents the first large-scale attempt to collect and share data of a scope and detail sufficient to begin the process of addressing deeply fundamental questions about human connectional anatomy and variation. A collaboration between MGH and UCLA, the HCP is being developed to employ advanced neuroimaging methods, and to construct an extensive informatics infrastructure to link these data and connectivity models. Working closely with other HCP partners based at Washington University in St. Louis we will provide rich data, essential imaging protocols, and sophisticated connectivity analysis tools for the neuroscience community.
This is an amazing example of collaboration across disciplines of medicine, genetics, neuroscience, computer science and imaging technologies.
So far, their conclusions:
Through this comprehensive white matter mapping project we will provide the neuroscience research community with a novel resource for connectomics that will have a significant impact for our enhancing our understanding of the rich neuroanatomical connectedness of the human brain.
I predict that years from now, we will look upon these beautiful images with a level of understanding that we can only imagine now. Who knows? Such meta-cognition might even guide us towards more profound discoveries.