The Allen Institute for Brain Science published two landmark papers in the April 2nd online edition of the journal Nature, highlighting their groundbreaking work to produce and share the BrainSpan Atlas of the Developing Human Brain prenatal data, and the Allen Mouse Brain Connectivity Atlas.

The publication of these papers coincides with the first anniversary of President Obama’s BRAIN Initiative and demonstrates our extensive and successful efforts in bringing big science to neuroscience and in contributing to this exciting public-private partnership.

BrainSpan Atlas of the Developing Human Brain - Prenatal Data

The BrainSpan Atlas is an ambitious big science initiative to create a map of the transcriptome across the entire course of human development. Researchers at the Allen Institute for Brain Science have published the first major report from the data, showcasing a high-resolution blueprint for how to build a human brain, with a detailed map of where different genes are turned on and off during mid-pregnancy. The map displays the data at unprecedented anatomical resolution, providing exceptional insight into diseases like autism that are linked to early brain development, and to origins of human uniqueness. As will all Allen Brain Atlas resources, the data is publicly available to everyone via the Allen Brain Atlas data portal.

Thomas R. Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, praises the BrainSpan Atlas as an already invaluable tool to researchers. “This atlas is already transforming the way scientists approach human brain development and neurodevelopmental disorders like autism and schizophrenia," he says. "Although the many genes associated with autism and schizophrenia don't show a clear relationship to each other in the adult brain, the BrainSpan Atlas reveals how these diverse genes are connected in the prenatal brain."

Allen Mouse Brain Connectivity Atlas

The Allen Mouse Brain Connectivity Atlas is the first comprehensive, large-scale data set describing how the brain of a mammal is wired, providing a groundbreaking data resource and fresh insights into how the nervous system processes information. The platform paper in Nature describing this invaluable tool to researchers comes on the heels of the heels of the last scheduled data release to the Connectivity Atlas in March.

Using the data, Allen Institute scientists were able to demonstrate that there are highly specific patterns in the connections among different brain regions, and that the strengths of these connections vary with greater than five orders of magnitudes, balancing a small number of strong connections with a large number of weak connections. Publication of this resource opens a world of possibilities for researchers to use this connective roadmap of the brain to make exciting new discoveries, since the data and tools are all publicly available through the Allen Brain Atlas portal.


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