KDnuggets : News : 2006 : n19 : item35 < PREVIOUS | NEXT >


Completion of Allen Brain Atlas Hailed as "Epoch-Making"

By Catherine Varmazis

September 28, 2006 | Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul G. Allen, founder of the Allen Institute for Brain Science (AIBS), (www.brainatlas.org/aba/) announced the completion of the Allen Brain Atlas at a press conference in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

The Allen Brain Atlas is a Web-based, graphic 3-D database of the mouse brain that shows the location of expression sites of more than 21,000 genes at the cellular level. Because humans and mice share more than 90 percent of their genes, the completion of this database has important implications for research into neurological disorders that affect humans.

Allen recalled assembling a group of experts, including top neuroscientists and geneticists, a few years ago and asking them what could be done that was not already being done to accelerate the field of neuroscience. The answer to that question led to the launch, in 2003, with $100 million in seed money from Allen, of the Allen Brain Atlas. “I try to find projects like this and apply resources to problems that will have an impact worldwide,” said Allen. “This database is online. Scientists from anywhere in the world can get online and within minutes be looking at genes of interest. We’ve seen fine structures in the mouse brain that have never been seen before.”

The Atlas shows where each gene is expressed in a series of thin tissue sections spaced evenly throughout the brain. The completed database includes an enormous amount of data: the equivalent of 85 million photos, or 600 terabytes, or a quarter million microscope slides, said Jones. The powerful computational tools developed by the team are available to all researchers at no cost through an easy-to-use interface.


And it is the human brain – the neocortex in particular – that will be the focus of the next stage of the AIBS’s work. Anderson cited three specific goals:

  • Mine the data and create better tools
  • Collaborate with other institutions
  • Explore the human neocortex – the part that makes us uniquely human, and which constitutes 80 percent of our brain.
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KDnuggets : News : 2006 : n19 : item35 < PREVIOUS | NEXT >

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