The brain is the most complex organ in the human body, with billions of neurons making trillions of connections. The "BRAIN CONNECTS" program is an unprecedented new effort aimed at developing technologies to precisely map neuronal wiring across the entire brain, helping us decipher the brain's neural code.
Understanding this circuitry can unveil how the human brain is central to who we are and how these circuits can be rewired to treat brain diseases and disorders.
The team from the Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology (SIAT) at the Chinese Academy of Sciences successfully participated in the newly announced US "BRAIN Initiative Connectivity Across Scales" (BRAIN CONNECTS), on September 26th. The program is supported by the USA National Institutes of Health (NIH) Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative, which allocated $150 million to fund 11 large-scale projects over five years with the aim of developing research capacity and technical capabilities to generate brain-wide wiring diagrams across multiple scales.
Professor BI Guoqiang from the Interdisciplinary Center for Brain Information at SIAT's Brain Cognition and Brain Disease Institute will work as a co-PI with lead PI Professor Kamil Ugurbil from the University of Minnesota's (UMN) Center for Magnetic Resonance Research on a UM1 project called the "Center for Mesoscale Connectomics" within this program.
"Over the course of the next five years of the project," said Prof. BI, "we will expand our innovative 3D optical imaging technique called VISoR (Volumetric Imaging with Synchronized On-the-Fly-Scan and Readout) and our data analysis platform. We will also collaborate with the UMN team to map whole-brain projections of neurons in the parietal cortex of macaque monkeys."
The two parties began preparing for this transnational brain science cooperation two years ago, along with groups from six other institutions, four from the US, and two from Europe.
The project is planned to conduct cross-scale research on the brain connectome of macaque monkeys. It will integrate high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging and high-speed optical imaging techniques, and establish joint platforms for data analysis and sharing.
"Current techniques lack either the resolution or the ability to scale across and map out large regions of the entire brain, information that is essential for unraveling the mysteries of this incredible organ,” said John Ngai, Ph.D., director of the NIH BRAIN Initiative. “Following years of careful planning and input from the scientific community, BRAIN CONNECTS – which represents our third, large-scale transformative project – aims to develop the tools needed to obtain brain-wide connectivity maps at unprecedented levels of detail and scale."
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