U team to map brain

University researchers will co-lead the $30-million Human Connectome Project, using magnetic imaging scanners to study how regions of the brain connect.

by Kyle Potter

Researchers at the University of Minnesota will soon join forces with other institutions nationwide to map the connections of the human brain.

The University will co-lead the Human Connectome Project, a $30-million research effort funded by the Blueprint for Neuroscience Research of the National Institutes of Health. Researchers will use magnetic imaging scanners to map the brain.

Kamil Ugurbil, director of the University’s Center for Magnetic Resonance Research, and several other University faculty will work with eight other research institutions to map the brains of 1,200 adults to learn more about brain’s structure.

Scientists hope a more complete understanding of how regions of the brain connect to one another will help solve the mysteries of mental health problems and brain dysfunction.

“For humans, we literally have no comprehensive, systematic, modern sense of [the brain’s] connectivity because we didn’t have the technologies available until recently,” said Michael Huerta, project leader of HCP.

The CMRR specializes in using magnetic resonance imaging technology in biomedical research.

Ugurbil and his team will use the currently incomplete $53.2 million expansion to the CMRR facility in the Biomedical Discovery District. The new facility will house a 10.5 Tesla magnet “capable of delivering the sharpest images ever seen through magnetic resonance imaging technology,” according to a press release.

“The Human Connectome Project will have transformative impact, paving the way toward a detailed understanding of how our brain circuitry changes as we age and how it differs in psychiatric and neurological illness,” said Dr. David Van Essen, the other co-leader of the project from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, in a press release.

The project led by Ugurbil and Van Essen will run alongside an $8.5 million project at Harvard University and the University of California, Los Angeles, where researchers will work to improve magnetic resonance imaging.