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NIH Record - 75th Anniversary - National Institutes of Health

Connectome Map More Than Doubles Human Cortex’s Known Regions

Image of cortex

Researchers discovered that our brain’s cortex is composed of 180 distinct areas per hemisphere. For example, the image above shows areas connected to the three main senses—hearing (red), touch (green), vision (blue) and opposing cognitive systems (light and dark). The map is based on data from resting state fMRI scans performed as part of the Human Connectome Project.

Photo: Matthew Glasser, David Van Essen

Researchers have mapped 180 distinct areas in our brain’s outer mantle, or cortex—more than twice the number previously known. They have also developed software that automatically detects the “fingerprint” of each of these areas in an individual’s brain scans. Funded by NIH through its Human Connectome Project, this software correctly mapped the areas by incorporating data from multiple non-invasive brain imaging measures that corroborated each other.

“These new insights and tools should help to explain how our cortex evolved and the roles of its specialized areas in health and disease and could eventually hold promise for unprecedented precision in brain surgery and clinical work-ups,” said Dr. Bruce Cuthbert, acting director of the National Institute of Mental Health, which co-funded the research as part of the HCP.

The new study identified—with a nearly 97 percent detection rate—97 new cortex areas per hemisphere, in addition to confirming 83 that were previously known.

NIMH grantees Dr. David Van Essen and Dr. Matthew Glasser, both of Washington University in St. Louis, and colleagues at six other research centers, reported on their discoveries July 20 in the journal Nature.

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