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Scientists Unveil Worlds First Computerized Human Brain Map

samzenpus posted about 3 years ago | from the all-laid-out dept.

Science 73

An anonymous reader writes "US scientists on Tuesday unveiled the world's first computerized human brain map, an online public resource developed to accelerate understanding of how the human brain works and in hopes to tackle neurological diseases like Alzeimer's and Parkinson's. Funded by Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen, the 55-million-US dollar project, named the Allen Human Brain Atlas, identifies 1,000 anatomical sites in the human brain, backed by more than 100 million data points that indicate the particular gene expression and underlying biochemistry of each site, said the Seattle-based Allen Institute for Brain Science. The human brain map released so far is only male."

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73 comments

Only male? (5, Funny)

mangu (126918) | about 3 years ago | (#35813160)

Makes sense, they didn't want to start with a variable map.

Re:Only male? (1)

ronocdh (906309) | about 3 years ago | (#35813244)

Jokes aside, hard data on the specific anatomical and therefore neurological differences between male and female brains---if there are any!— are welcome. I'd think this discussion could be extended ad infinitum, with theoretical variations for differences of culture or "personality." Props to Allen for footing the bill on this one.

Re:Only male? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35813648)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexually_dimorphic_nucleus

Re:Only male? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816974)

They're out there, but the problem is they prove the transsexuals have a legitimate medical condition, and we can't have that. It's easier to continue to armchair pontificate about autogynephilia and throw around macho assertions like "my SON isn't going to be a fag!" rather than acknowledge that there's nothing wrong with being female, but I digress.

Re:Only male? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35813568)

Nah. It's just the male mind is orders of magnitude easier to understand. :-)

Surprisingly, the sex region isn't taking up the entire brain...

Re:Only male? (1)

VanGarrett (1269030) | about 3 years ago | (#35813780)

Actually, I've found female behavior to be easier to predict based on knowledge of personal history, as well as personal history easier to predict based on female behavior, than in males. I'd welcome correction on this, if someone can cite a reference (or at least provide a convincing logical argument), but it seems like men are less responsive to traumatic events than women.

Re:Only male? (1)

The End Of Days (1243248) | about 3 years ago | (#35814210)

Have you rigorously maintained records of this? People tend to forget incidents that disconfirm their personal biases.

Re:Only male? (1)

VanGarrett (1269030) | more than 2 years ago | (#35843444)

No records. I've done no scientific research, only casual observation. Over a few weeks, I might watch the way a girl interacts with those around her, and then I ask her, "Did such and such happen to you, around the time you were so and so age?" and the answer is often affirmative, though sometimes with some minor corrections. I haven't had occasion to do so in a number of years, but women were always much easier to read than men, and younger easier than older.

As I said, it's completely unscientific and I wouldn't call it reliable, but I've been able to do better than guess, and I've obtained results with useful accuracy.

Re:Only male? (1)

Fernando Jones (1566403) | about 3 years ago | (#35814186)

Why would male brains be easier to understand? I'm far more impressed by what male brains have done up to this point. Top marks on the cliches though!

Re:Only male? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35813974)

True, and it is also probably best they finished the more complex model first.

Re:Only male? (1)

JohnRoss1968 (574825) | about 3 years ago | (#35814464)

Start with a map of a mans mind and then take away reason and accountability and you will have a womans mind mapped.
Just kidding, God the women here are going to kill me......err wait this is slashdot so I should be fairly safe.

Re:Only male? (1)

Kilrah_il (1692978) | about 3 years ago | (#35815120)

Damn, I nearly choked on my breakfast. Thanks for the laugh. Where, oh where are my mod points?

Re:Only male? (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about 3 years ago | (#35816216)

Damn, I nearly choked on my breakfast. Thanks for the laugh. Where, oh where are my mod points?

You have a fucking low bar for your sense of humour.
Here's one you might enjoy:

Q: Why did the slashdotter cross the road?

A: Because he saw a woman coming towards him and shat his pants.

Re:Only male? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816512)

"The human brain map released so far is only male."

Smart of them to start with something simple.

Gender bias (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35813174)

"The human brain map released so far is only male."

This is because the female brain is beyond all comprehension.

Re:Gender bias (1)

Richard Dick Head (803293) | about 3 years ago | (#35814332)

No, it is well known that women are more social
...thus more manipulative
...thus receive less punishment growing up
...thus spend less time facing their inner spoiled brats
...thus easily make it to "mature child" status (where you hide your inner brat for social reasons)
but have trouble getting to the "mature adult" stage (the inner brat becomes enlightened through trial and error)

Its the same idea when you get everything handed to you
and you never have to work hard....you never get good
and you never appreciate what you have :)

I guess that is what pregnancy is for

Female brain already mapped. (1)

by (1706743) (1706744) | about 3 years ago | (#35813200)

Re:Female brain already mapped. (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | about 3 years ago | (#35813292)

Random(100);

Re:Female brain already mapped. (2)

ustolemyname (1301665) | about 3 years ago | (#35813992)

int Random(int max)
{
// implement random number generation later, after we refactor again
if (max > 3)
return 3;
else
throw CantReturnThreeException;
}

Re:Female brain already mapped. (1)

Richard Dick Head (803293) | about 3 years ago | (#35814390)

long double reasoningProcess (int r) {
if (r == 3)
return (long double) instanceOf(this);
else
return (long double) reasoningProcess(Random(r));
}

But wit run? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35813204)

It's not much use if you can't hit the run button and watch it think.

spelling correction (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35813216)

Alzheimer's

not for linux (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35813222)

The software to show the map is not FOSS and also not available for Linux.
http://human.brain-map.org/explorer.html [brain-map.org]

Re:not for linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35813656)

It doesn't work in DOS either. That's about as relevant as Linux.

Re:not for linux (1)

Richard Dick Head (803293) | about 3 years ago | (#35814514)

It doesn't work in DOS either. That's about as relevant as Linux.

Its comforting to know
that while you're still on training-wheel-class operating systems
you get to have fun figuring out how your brain will work

when your balls drop.

Have fun!

HTML5? (1)

Kamiza Ikioi (893310) | about 3 years ago | (#35817384)

I'm more disappointed that it has to run as a local application at all. Doesn't this say "an online public resource developed to accelerate understanding of how the human brain works". Now maybe it has a network connection, but when I hear "online public resource", I usually think of something you can access from other online public resources, like a public library. And that means web, imho. Google Maps is more of an online public resource than this brain map.

male (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35813226)

and they have already identified 1023 areas that are asociated with porn.

oh and 74 with beer

Re:male (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35813304)

I predict that the female brain will have 923 areas associated with shoes and 74 with shopping.

Re:male (1)

varcher (156670) | about 3 years ago | (#35815398)

Actually, those sites are the same ones as sex (the reproductive part, not the recreative).

There were a couple studies a few years ago that showed the strong correlation between shopping (time spent, amount of money spent) and the menstrual cycle.

1000 whole sites (3, Insightful)

DeBattell (460265) | about 3 years ago | (#35813268)

1000 whole sites. Too bad the brain has something like 100 trillion synapses. So that means each site contains an average of about 100 billion synapses. I want a higher resolution map.

Re:1000 whole sites (2)

hedwards (940851) | about 3 years ago | (#35813384)

1,000 is probably on the low side ultimately, but with 100b synapses, you'd be averaging about 100m per structure. That's thoroughly unscientific, but you'd expect to have a fairly substantial number per structure. Otherwise minor damage to anything anywhere in the brain would be catastrophic.

Re:1000 whole sites (1)

jd2112 (1535857) | about 3 years ago | (#35814024)

Simulating 1000 synapses should work fine. If you remove all of the synapses of the male brain that are dedicated to thinking about boobies that's about all you have left.

Re:1000 whole sites (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35813430)

Look any reasonable functional connectivity map across a large group of individuals will organize itself into about 20 networks and maybe 100 nodes. 1000 sites is probably too many for studying neurodegenerative disorders.

Re:1000 whole sites (2)

gmuslera (3436) | about 3 years ago | (#35813578)

Considering how flexible is the brain (people recovering functionality after damage in zones associated with something), probably is a something great that then managed to identify physical places that are the same for everyone (ok, at least for every man).

I can help with mapping the female mind. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35813338)

Just take the male map, remove reason and logic and voila, female brain map.

Re:I can help with mapping the female mind. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35813460)

Just take the male map, remove reason and logic and voila, female brain map.

HOLY SHIT

THAT'S

HILARIOUS

HA!

OLOLOLOL

Re:I can help with mapping the female mind. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35813612)

I couldn't help but read your subject as "I can't help it with fapping to the female mind"

With your attitude, I bet you'd hit a female brain on a lab table if you could. :P

Re:I can help with mapping the female mind. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35814036)

With your attitude, I bet you'd hit a female brain on a lab table if you could. :P

*fake canadian accent*
"And this one time, I was with my girlfriend in a labooratory, and I was about to bone her when we realized she didn't have a body. I told her I loved her for her mind, and went to bone her again, but she said there was no way."

Re:I can help with mapping the female mind. (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 3 years ago | (#35814200)

Just take the male map, remove reason and logic and voila, female brain map.

It took me a while to remember what your comment reminded [hark.com] me of.

Dollhouse (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35813376)

Right, I'd like to put in my reservation for Eliza Dushku now please. Gotta get in ahead of the rush.

Who's been sleeping in my brain? (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 3 years ago | (#35813382)

U.S. scientists on Tuesday unveiled the world's first computerized human brain map, an online public resource developed to accelerate understanding of how the human brain works and in hopes to tackle neurological diseases like Alzeimer's and Parkinson's.

Hmmm . . . can I use that map on my GPS Navigator?"

Navigator: "Please take a left turn at your next neurological problem ,,, oh, never mind ... can you replace the loose nut behind the wheel, and take this car back to Hertz?"

Funded by Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen, the 55-million-U.S. dollar project, named the Allen Human Brain Atlas, identifies 1,000 anatomical sites in the human brain, backed by more than 100 million data points that indicate the particular gene expression and underlying biochemistry of each site, said the Seattle-based Allen Institute for Brain Science.

Well, that says a lot . . . "Thanks for all the fish, Mr. Allen . . ."

Re:Who's been sleeping in my brain? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35813514)

HuYuck! What'll they think of next!

Words i hate the most (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35813392)

1. Computerized
2. (This list is a work in progress.)

now if only (2)

Hermanas (1665329) | about 3 years ago | (#35813490)

Now if only we had a computerized brain to analyze the computerized brain map...

It reminds me of the quote attributed to Emerson M. Pugh,

"If the human brain were so simple that we could understand it, we would be so simple that we couldn't."

2084 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35813540)

Just give me the brain slugs for christ's sake.

That could be extremely useful. (2)

jd (1658) | about 3 years ago | (#35813542)

The BBC is reporting that brain scans can detect Alzheimers [bbc.co.uk] decades before symptoms show. If you couple the two studies together, you should be able to identify what biochemistry is related to those specific areas that are thinning and no others. In further news, five more genes linked to the disease [bionews.org.uk] have now been identified. One of them turns out to be also linked to the immune system - which is interesting, since one of the key processes involved is the production of tau protein tangles which literally crush areas of the brain to death and toxic substances in the brain (such as aluminium) are known to trigger that process.

It has always struck me that it had to be an immune response of some sort, since the tau proteins "contain" these contaminants, but I'd pictured it as being an archaic response (there's no evolutionary advantage in being dead, but there is an evolutionary advantage in single-cell and simple multi-cell organisms being able to detox). There's nothing in the BioNews article to suggest the mutation is a regression bug, though it's not exactly chock-full of details on things like how old the regions involved are.

Anyways, with now ten genes identified, a region identified as pre-symptom Alzheimers, and a knowledge of the genes and chemistry of that part of the brain, it should be possible to do quite a bit.

Re:That could be extremely useful. (4, Interesting)

ue85 (1961968) | about 3 years ago | (#35813700)

MRI shows anatomical changes and thus until there are gross physical changes in the brain you won't be able to detect such disease processes. MRI is wonderful for brain imaging, as it can differentiate between gray and white matter better than any other modalities but given the cost per scan, time required per scan and long queue of higher priority patients (stroke, head trauma, etc) it isn't effective given its low sensitivity. While I am biased towards Molecular Imaging a lot of focus has been on Pittsburgh compound B for imaging amyloid plaques. This type of imaging has the advantage of being extremely sensitive and specific however the cost and availability are even greater than that of MRI. Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanners aren't widely available and where they are it is mainly reserved for oncology. Many theories for Alzheimer's disease exist but given the evidence linked to beta-amyloid mechanisms I don't think the missing link is some unknown mechanism but rather no cost effective way of dealing with it considering preventative treatments exist but are limited and no intervention exists to reverse the effects. That and there are a number of non-Alzheimer's dementias that people are less aware of.

Re:That could be extremely useful. (1)

jd (1658) | about 3 years ago | (#35818444)

You are correct that it only shows gross changes, which makes it so surprising it can detect Alzheimer's a decade or so before symptoms show. It means that even if you couldn't cure the condition but only stop it, you could stop it before it became a problem. Mind you, with the 9.2T MRIs you can resolve virtually down to the individual neurons. (Having said that, only two exist as far as I know.)

You are also correct that the cost, time and long queues make this a prohibitive technique for preventative medicine.

I'll take a look into Molecular Imaging. I've a great interest in imaging techniques - not only for their intended purpose but also where they can be used in other disciplines for purposes never imagined by the inventor.

PET is extremely useful but I believe it to be under-utilized. The classical way of using it is to use a beta+ emitter as a tracer that is taken up more by whatever you want to study than by the surroundings. There will be synthetic medicines where you can swap out an isotope for another of the same element where the replacement can be used as a tracer element. In these cases, you should be able to actually observe what takes up the medicine and in what amounts, substantially reducing the risks involved in medical trials and the risks of unanticipated side-effects. Of course, the difficulty in gaining access to PET scanners means that even if this would actually be of use (rather than just as an abstract idea), it can't be used in practice because nobody has the tools.

Alzheimer's is linked to a number of different things now - beta-amyloid being one, definitely, and now 10 different genes, but the University of Manchester's research into it in the late 80s, early 90s, showed a contaminant was always present in the tau protein plaques. My question has always been one of how to link these disparate observations into a coherent story. My idea was probably far-fetched, my knowledge of biochemistry and neurology are somewhat limited after all, but it was the only one that consistantly fitted the (very limited) information I've had.

Re:That could be extremely useful. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35829646)

I doubt evolution really cares about diseases that tend to come on after a person is done being able to have children. Perhaps old people living longer is worse for the heard.

My god... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35813636)

It's full of sex!

Cute, but meh. (1)

blair1q (305137) | about 3 years ago | (#35813710)

About as useful as slicing your computer into 0.1-mm thicknesses then labelling them by the smell of each 0.1-mm square thereof.

The brain is a network of fluid tubes, wiring, electrochemical interfaces, and active surfaces. The gross chemical distribution is as important to signalling as the precise position and reactive conditioning of wiring connections is. Probably the least important thing about its function is "gene expression".

Gene expression is useful only for disease mapping. Helpful to someone who wants to pick your insurance company's wallet. Worthless if you want to build one that works.

Re:Cute, but meh. (2)

dogmatixpsych (786818) | about 3 years ago | (#35813838)

And yet some of us (including myself) make our living doing just that - virtually slicing the brain (images of it) into sections and seeing how areas of the brain relate with behavior. Some of us (myself included) look at not just the discrete areas but also the "wiring". Don't worry, the wiring maps of the brain are in the works too.

Re:Cute, but meh. (1)

repapetilto (1219852) | about 3 years ago | (#35814786)

To be honest I've been trying to find a use for this gene expression visualization feature for the last 2 hours by looking at different things different ways and I've come up with nothing yet. Also the program keeps crashing if I click anywhere when looking at coronal sections. The software is good for learning anatomy, I'm really at a loss for the gene expression visualization though. I guess overlapping patterns could mean the genes regulated each other, but if you have multiple splice variants and one is ubiquitous then thats not very helpful. Thats just for my specific case though.

Re:Cute, but meh. (1)

Hythlodaeus (411441) | about 3 years ago | (#35822340)

Gene expression is useful only for disease mapping.

That is the most ignorant thing I've heard today. Gene expression levels are germane to understanding any biochemistry or signaling pathways in a given tissue.

Horseshit - Where's the Map of Brain Function? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35814078)

Goddamnit, the genetic material expressed/available at each location in the brain is worth bupkus. What we need is a map of what stimulating each point on the cortex does (even if it's anecdotal information)!

What is provided is is f***ing worthless! Everyone knows that the genetic variation between different regions of the brain is essentially nil. WTF is this? Aw Fuck!

Time to cut research funds for these assholes: they're not even in the loop. What a bunch of 'tards, B Ship, etc.

Re:Horseshit - Where's the Map of Brain Function? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35814918)

At least you're remaining calm about your disappointment. That's important.

Zombies say: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35814134)

1,000 sites. And they all taste like chicken.

which male brain? (1)

mevets (322601) | about 3 years ago | (#35814222)

I think the little one is a lot easier; although the big one is pretty much undifferentiated tissue.

Y r u so stupid? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35816784)

Y R U so stupid?

Think of the national security ramifications (1)

TarPitt (217247) | about 3 years ago | (#35814486)

Publishing a map of the brain only makes it that much easier for GPS-equipped Zombies.

Some maps should be kept secret for national security reasons.

Certainly a Zombie invasion would be a national security disaster. Why give them a computerized map to make their job easier?

Re:Think of the national security ramifications (1)

Grygus (1143095) | about 3 years ago | (#35814922)

Anyone can post, "I for one welcome our new zombie overlords," but these guys will be able to demonstrate that they supported the apocalypse before it started! They will be eaten last, and you and I will wish we had been on that team.

A waste of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35820114)

Trying to understand how the brain works by looking at neurons is like trying to understand how a computer works by looking at a pc hardware. All the important data is in the software/OS.

Duh (1)

argStyopa (232550) | about 3 years ago | (#35820776)

I'd say it's more functionally accurate to say that the male human brain maps out at a function amazingly similar to Eva Longoria. At least, most of her.

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