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A three-dimensional atlas of the human brain as it develops and which incorporates gene activity with the anatomical reference has released the first in a series of reports. The National Institutes of Health published the first major report resulting from the years-long work on the BrainSPan Atlas in the journal Nature.
The work shows that the BrainSPan Atlas, thanks to its gene mapping and neuroimaging data from developing prenatal brains, could show how some mental illnesses develop before birth or give an idea of how they develop later.
"Many neuropsychiatric diseases are likely the result of abnormal brain development during prenatal life," said lead author Ed Lein, Ph.D., of the Allen Institute. "An anatomically precise molecular atlas of the brain during this time period is a first step to understanding how the human brain develops normally and what can go wrong."
The Atlas is an important study as, for obvious reasons, human-based studies on brain development and mental disorder are limited and difficult to come by. The neocortex, for example, is smooth in rats and some other species commonly used for study, but highly developed in humans. This makes it difficult for scientists to fully understand. That is changing thanks to projects like the BrainSpan Atlas.
See the National Institutes of Health for more information on this public-private resource.
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