In a significant stride towards understanding the human brain, scientists have constructed a comprehensive atlas that maps over 3,000 types of brain cells. This groundbreaking work could pave the way for advancements in the prevention and treatment of various neurological disorders.
The atlas, a product of the collective efforts of hundreds of researchers, provides unprecedented insights into the location, structure, and in some instances, function of these brain cells. Ed Lein, a senior investigator at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, believes this information is crucial for understanding human uniqueness, individual differences, and brain development.
The atlas also presents a novel approach to studying neuropsychiatric conditions, from Alzheimer’s to depression. It could help researchers understand the cellular vulnerabilities and impacts in these diseases.
The atlas, which is still a work in progress, was published across more than 20 research papers in three scientific journals. It has already shed light on how the human brain differs from animal brains, with humans having specialized cells for processing visual information not found in mice. However, these cells are present in chimps and gorillas, whose brains were also mapped for the project.
The atlas project, largely funded by the National Institutes of Health, is part of the BRAIN Initiative launched by President Obama a decade ago. The initiative aims to find new treatments for brain disorders, and the atlas could be instrumental in achieving this goal.
Read more at NPR.