BigBrain: An Ultrahigh-Resolution 3D Human Brain Model

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Science  21 Jun 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6139, pp. 1472-1475
DOI: 10.1126/science.1235381

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Reconstructing the Human Brain

Reference brains have become a standard tool in human brain research. Reference brains presently in the public domain provide a spatial framework at the macroscopic level. Amunts et al. (p. 1472) present a high-resolution (20 µm) three-dimensional reconstruction of a human brain. The tool will be freely available to help with interpreting functional neuroimaging studies, fiber tract analyses, and assigning molecular and gene expression data.


Reference brains are indispensable tools in human brain mapping, enabling integration of multimodal data into an anatomically realistic standard space. Available reference brains, however, are restricted to the macroscopic scale and do not provide information on the functionally important microscopic dimension. We created an ultrahigh-resolution three-dimensional (3D) model of a human brain at nearly cellular resolution of 20 micrometers, based on the reconstruction of 7404 histological sections. “BigBrain” is a free, publicly available tool that provides considerable neuroanatomical insight into the human brain, thereby allowing the extraction of microscopic data for modeling and simulation. BigBrain enables testing of hypotheses on optimal path lengths between interconnected cortical regions or on spatial organization of genetic patterning, redefining the traditional neuroanatomy maps such as those of Brodmann and von Economo.

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