Allen Institute takes major step towards mapping human brain

Allen Institute for Brain Science takes major step in mapping neurons in human brain

The institute was established over a decade ago, backed by $500 million from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

The institute said Thursday that it had launched a new database marking a major step towards creating a comprehensive map of the human brain, called Allen Cell Types Database.

This comes as the first initiative in Allen's 10-year plan, to unlock the mysteries of human thoughts and actions, which would be instrumental in gaining insights into some of the brain's most debilitating diseases.

The Allen Cell Types Database had information on around 240 neurons found in the brains of mice, the cells that were similar to those in the human brain.

That data had information about the neurons' electrical activity and 'morphology', or shape, as also their location.

The data would prove helpful in understanding how normal brains worked, which in turn might help doctors cure diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Also it was not diseases of cognition alone that Allen Institute looked to help cure, as the foundation had simultaneously released an update to its Ivy Glioblastoma Atlas Project, a tool, providing detailed genetic information about one of the brain's deadliest cancers.

According to Jones, for making progress in the field of brain research, neuroscientists needed recognised standards, which could be shared at a global level.

He said, like the periodic table of elements, which had a very significant role in studying chemistry; the established standards for the brain would play a similar part in neuroscience.

The Allen Cell Types Database was accessible publicly and represented the first step of the institute in understanding how brain activity led to decision-making, action and perception.

With a better understanding of various cell types scientists would be able to unravel how a healthy brain actually functioned and also about the disruptions that are responsible for conditions like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and more.

Christof Koch, chief scientific officer and president of Allen Institute for Brain Science, identifying the types of neuron cells was essential for unfolding the secret of how the brain processed information and helped in consciousness, perception and memory.

According to Koch, this was the first resource of its kind to bring together multiple types of data-shape, position in the brain and electrical activity-in a single searchable database anywhere on the planet.