Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Looking deeper into brain function

27.03.2018

Human Brain Project (HBP) researchers propose new concept to discover the 'operational functions' of brain areas

To uncover connections between brain regions and specific cognitive functions, neuroscientists have long made extensive use of techniques like functional resonance imaging (fMRI). First introduced in the 1990's, the method allows tracking the brain's activity while a test subject performs a task or responds to stimuli in the MRI scanner.


Millions of neuroimages have been acquired in more than 20,000 published activation studies with fMRI and PET imaging.

Copyright: Forschungszentrum Jülich

To date, fMRI has been employed in thousands of studies to determine the "locations" of a wide variety of behavioral functions in the brain. In spite of this, it has proved difficult to understand specific functions and complex interaction of brain areas and networks. For regions like the hippocampus, long lists of associated tasks have been described, but so far, the many individual results have not produced a conclusive picture.

A team of brain imaging researchers from Düsseldorf and Jülich in Germany now propose a new approach. The scientists are contributors to the multinational European Human Brain Project. Key to their idea is a reversal of the current practice: Instead of starting with pre-defined behavioral functions and then trying to assign brain regions, the areas would be selected first and then taken through a wide ranging statistical screening for potential behavioral associations, resulting in a "behavioral profile".

Recently established large data bases of neuroimaging data provide the basis for this new bottom up approach, which, they argue, could help to reveal the "core functions" of brain areas.

"These basic operational functions would be the missing link between behavioral functions described by Psychology and the brain mapping community", explains first author Sarah Genon, a researcher at University Hospital Düsseldorf and Research Center Jülich in Germany. In the European Human Brain Project, she heads the task Multimodal comparison of whole-brain maps.

"Many approaches to the description of human behavior and its dysfunction, not only from the many psychology fields, but also fields like psychiatry, neurology, or economics have produced rich knowledge, but mapping them onto the brain results in a kind of conceptual chaos", Genon says. A psychologist by training who previously used fMRI to study Alzheimer's disease, she knows both sides. "It has been difficult for these fields and scientists interested in brain organization to find a common language."

Basic operational functions of a brain area are not directly observed, but need to be derived from the range of much more complicated behavioral functions with which they are associated. The core "Job" of a brain area is veiled in a multitude of higher order behavioral functions that recruit it. Teasing out these base functions of individual structurally distinct brain areas is a challenge -- but the researchers believe that the time is right, as recent advances in statistical methodology and availability of brain imaging data are converging:

"By now many different conditions have been tested in many different people and large databases make the compiled data of tens of thousands of different imaging studies available", says senior author Simon Eickhoff, head of the area of Brain and Behaviour at the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine at Forschungszentrum Jülich and the Institute of Systems Neuroscience at University Clinic Düsseldorf. In addition, extensive population samples have been collected by initiatives like the Human Connectome Project, the UK Biobank or the German 1000Brain study, which combine functional and anatomical brain data with anonymized results in various cognitive tests.

With the data from many studies one can begin identifying the basic sub-functions that are dynamically combined into more complex behaviors. "Basically we can now approach the middle level. This has been somewhat in the dark, compared to what is known from measurements about the microscopic level, like the neurophysiology of cells, and the higher functions of complex behavior."

This focus of bridging between the different levels of brain organization is very much in line with the broader goals of the Human Brain Project, Eickhoff explains. With around 500 contributing scientists all over Europe, the project aims to set up a framework to understand the brain's complexity in a more unified way. The work in functional mapping will be integrated into a web-based 3D-Atlas that can be zoomed through all scales and reflects many different aspects, from genetics, cells and networks all the way up to a regions behavioral involvements.

###

Interview with Dr. Sarah Genon: Neuroscientist Dr. Sarah Genon explains a new approach to discover "operational functions" of brain areas https://blogs.fz-juelich.de/zweikommazwei/en/2018/03/26/brain-research-we-want-to-show-the-whole-picture/

Human Brain Project:

The authors are involved in the European Human Brain Project, a H2020 FET Flagship Project which strives to accelerate the fields of neuroscience, computing and brain-related medicine. This acceleration will be achieved by a strategic alignment of scientific research programmes in fundamental neuroscience, advanced simulation and multi-scale modelling with the construction of an enabling Research Infrastructure. In the project, they contribute to the construction of the world's most comprehensive multimodal 3D atlas of the brain. Co-author of the article is Prof. Katrin Amunts, Scientific Director of the Project.

Information about the atlas: https://www.humanbrainproject.eu/en/explore-the-brain/

Peter Zekert | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: Neuroscience brain area brain areas brain function brain regions fMRI

More articles from Medical Engineering:

nachricht New insight into the brain’s hidden depths: Jena scientists develop minimally-invasive endoscope
27.11.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Photonische Technologien e. V.

nachricht New China and US studies back use of pulse oximeters for assessing blood pressure
21.11.2018 | University of British Columbia

All articles from Medical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Researchers develop method to transfer entire 2D circuits to any smooth surface

What if a sensor sensing a thing could be part of the thing itself? Rice University engineers believe they have a two-dimensional solution to do just that.

Rice engineers led by materials scientists Pulickel Ajayan and Jun Lou have developed a method to make atom-flat sensors that seamlessly integrate with devices...

Im Focus: Three components on one chip

Scientists at the University of Stuttgart and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) succeed in important further development on the way to quantum Computers.

Quantum computers one day should be able to solve certain computing problems much faster than a classical computer. One of the most promising approaches is...

Im Focus: Substitute for rare earth metal oxides

New Project SNAPSTER: Novel luminescent materials by encapsulating phosphorescent metal clusters with organic liquid crystals

Nowadays energy conversion in lighting and optoelectronic devices requires the use of rare earth oxides.

Im Focus: A bit of a stretch... material that thickens as it's pulled

Scientists have discovered the first synthetic material that becomes thicker - at the molecular level - as it is stretched.

Researchers led by Dr Devesh Mistry from the University of Leeds discovered a new non-porous material that has unique and inherent "auxetic" stretching...

Im Focus: The force of the vacuum

Scientists from the Theory Department of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science (CFEL) in Hamburg have shown through theoretical calculations and computer simulations that the force between electrons and lattice distortions in an atomically thin two-dimensional superconductor can be controlled with virtual photons. This could aid the development of new superconductors for energy-saving devices and many other technical applications.

The vacuum is not empty. It may sound like magic to laypeople but it has occupied physicists since the birth of quantum mechanics.

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

Expert Panel on the Future of HPC in Engineering

03.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

New method gives microscope a boost in resolution

10.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Carnegie Mellon researchers probe hydrogen bonds using new technique

10.12.2018 | Life Sciences

ETRI exchanged quantum information on daylight in a free-space quantum key distribution

10.12.2018 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>