The Human Connectome Project (HCP) is a five-year collaboration between the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging at UCLA and Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). Their hope is to construct a map of the complete structural and functional neural connections within the human brain.
The creation of a map, or “connectome” as it has been dubbed, is raising hopes that brain disorders like autism and schizophrenia will be better understood in the future, perhaps cured.
The super-MRI used in the Human Connectome Project is eight times more powerful than a conventional MRI machine and produces images that are four to eight times more detailed, and does so in one-sixth of the time. The Connectome scanner can follow individual water molecules along a neural pathway and creates stunning three-dimensional spaghetti maps of the brain.
“The diffusion image is a map of the water diffusion which we then convert into a marker for the fiber pathways,” says Dr. Van Wedeen, director of Connectomics at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). “We then reconstruct it through computer algorithms that explain the water diffusion that we have observed.”
You can read more about this project at www.humanconnectomeproject.org