Unraveling Brain Connections

A US$30 million project that will use cutting-edge brain imaging technologies to map the circuitry of the healthy adult human brain, will be launched by the National Institutes of Health Blueprint for Neuroscience The Human Connectome Project (HCP) will yield insight into how brain connections underlie brain function Research by systematically collecting brain imaging data from hundreds of subjects, opening up new lines of inquiry for human neuroscience. Investigators have been invited to submit detailed proposals to carry out the HCP, which will be funded at up to US$6 million per year for five years. The HCP is the first of three Blueprint Grand Challenges, projects that address major questions and issues in neuroscience research. Intending to promote major leaps in the understanding of brain function the Blueprint Grand Challenges are to enable to seek for approaches for treating brain disorders. The three Blueprint Grand Challenges to be launched in 2009 and 2010 address the connectivity of the adult, human brain targeted drug development for neurological diseases, and the neural basis of chronic pain disorders.

Scientists have studied the relationship between the structure and function of the human brain since the 1800s. Some parts of the brain serve basic functions such as movement, sensation, emotion, learning and memory. Others are more important for uniquely human functions such as abstract thinking. The connections between brain regions are important for shaping and coordinating these functions, but scientists know little about how different parts of the human brain connect. The HCP will involve collection of DNA samples, demographic information and behavioral data from the subjects. The data will be available freely to research community and is to serve as a baseline for further studies.

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