ICYMI: Detailed Brain Atlas Offers New Insights into Human Brain

  • Published30 Nov 2023
  • Author Christine Won
  • Source BrainFacts/SfN
Blue and pink brain
Shutterstock.com via Wangbar

Researchers have mapped the human brain to create a detailed atlas identifying more than 3,300 cell types  most previously undiscovered. The atlas offers the most detailed insight yet into these cells’ location, function, and structure, and is a major step toward elucidating the 170 billion cells in the human brain. The findings were reported in Science and other journals across more than 20 papers.

The collection of work demonstrates the cumulation of the multibillion Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative’s Cell Census Network (BICCN) spearheaded by the National Institutes of Health. The studies reveal new cell types in the deeper recesses of the brain beyond its outer layer the cerebral cortex like the brain stem, which controls vital functions like heart rate and breathing. Among others, the studies uncovered new types of neurons, neuron-nourishing astrocytes, and microglia, the nervous system’s immune cells.

By comparing the brains of chimpanzees and other species to the human brain, researchers spotted cell types in the human brain matching those of chimpanzees and gorillas rather than distinctly new, evolved cell types as previously believed.

Big Picture: These studies break down the human brain into its cellular makeup at a level mostly seen in animal models until now. Their findings support further scientific inquiry into the fundamentals of our brain and its formation, and work toward the goal of creating a reference for the human brain in normal and disease states. 

Read More: The Human Brain Has a Dizzying Array of Mystery Cells. The New York Times

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