The human cerebral cortex: a new milestone reached

On 20 July, a team of researchers led by neuroscientist Matthew F. Glasser, Washington University Medical School published in the magazine Nature an article presenting “A multi-modal parcellation of human cerebral cortex. It reveals 97 unidentified areas located in the outermost layer of the brain that contains the gray matter, the cerebral cortex.

This study was conducted as part of the Human Connectome Project (HCP), a USA government-funded initiative launched in 2010. It explores and aims to elucidate “the neural pathways that underlie brain function and behavior.” This contribution appears to have received a positive welcome from the scientific community. To construct the map, the team used an objective semi-automated neuroanatomical approach through the examination of multimodal magnetic resonance images (MRI) collected from 210 healthy young adults from the HCP. In order to define the undescribed regions of the cortex, they looked for areas that diverged in thickness, connectivity and function. Once the mapping was completed the result was tested on 210 additional people. It was found that the map was accurate but that the sizes of some areas differ from one individual to another.

This paper appears as a first-of-its-kind detailed parcellation of cortical areas. But, as underlined by the authors, it is not the last: “We identify this parcellation as HCP-MMP 1.0(Human Connectome Project Multi-Modal Parcellation version 1.0), making the version 1.0 designation because we anticipate future refinements as better data become available”. Other than describing almost a hundred new regions, those findings appear to provide a neuroanatomical foundation that might help better the comprehension of human cognition, aging and diseases. It also may have some clinical implications such as the possibility for neurosurgeons to have access to “detailed, individualized maps” of the brain they operate on.

To go further:
-Glasser, Matthew. F. et al, “A multi-modal parcellation of human cerebral cortex“, Nature, July 20 2016, http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature18933.
https://www.humanconnectome.org/

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