Scans Help Scientists Construct First Map Of The Human Brain

Scans Help Scientists Construct First Map Of The Human BrainScientists are set to release the first batch of data from a project designed to create the first map of the human brain. The project could help shed light on why some people are naturally scientific, musical or artistic.

‘Full monty’

Some of the first images were shown at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Boston. Scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital are pushing brain imaging to its limit using a purpose built scanner. It is one of the most powerful scanners in the world. The scanner’s magnets need 22MW of electricity – enough to power a nuclear submarine.

The researchers invited me to have my brain scanned. I was asked if I wanted “the 10-minute job or the 45-minute ‘full monty'” which would give one of the most detailed scans of the brain ever carried out. Only 50 such scans have ever been done. I went for the full monty.

‘Learn how the human mind works’

The result was a 3D computer image that revealed the important pathways of my brain in vivid colour. One of the lead researchers, Professor Van Wedeen, gave me a guided tour of the inside of my head. He showed me the connection that helped me to see and another one that helped me understand speech. Prof Wedeen used visualisation software that enabled him to fly around and through these pathways – even to zoom in to see intricate details. He and his team hope to learn how the human mind works and what happens when it goes wrong.

“We have all these mental health problems and our method for understanding them has really not changed for over a hundred years,” he said. “We don’t have imaging methods as we do for the heart to tell what’s really going on. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could get in there and see these things and give people advice concerning what their risks are and how we could help them overcome those problems?”

What other functions could this brain map present to us? Are you interested in undergoing this type of brain scan?

Source: Pallab Ghosh, BBC News

Image: Nonsolofole

Paralyzed Dogs Walk Again After Nose Cell Transplant

Paralyzed Dogs Walk Again After Nose Cell TransplantScientists have reversed paralysis in dogs after injecting them with cells grown from the lining of their nose. The pets had all suffered spinal injuries which prevented them from using their back legs. The Cambridge University team is cautiously optimistic the technique could eventually have a role in the treatment of human patients.

‘Considerable improvement’

In the study, funded by the Medical Research Council and published in the neurology journal Brain, the dogs had olfactory ensheathing cells from the lining of their nose removed. These were grown and expanded for several weeks in the laboratory. Of 34 pet dogs on the proof of concept trial, 23 had the cells transplanted into the injury site – the rest were injected with a neutral fluid. Many of the dogs that received the transplant showed considerable improvement and were able to walk on a treadmill with the support of a harness. None of the control group regained use of its back legs.

‘Human patients’

The research was a collaboration between the MRC’s Regenerative Medicine Centre and Cambridge University’s Veterinary School. Professor Robin Franklin, a regeneration biologist at the Wellcome Trust-MRC Stem Cell Institute and report co-author, said:

“We’re confident that the technique might be able to restore at least a small amount of movement in human patients with spinal cord injuries but that’s a long way from saying they might be able to regain all lost function. ‘

The researchers say the transplanted cells regenerated nerve fibres across the damaged region of the spinal cord. This enabled the dogs to regain the use of their back legs and coordinate movement with their front limbs. The new nerve connections did not occur over the long distances required to connect the brain to the spinal cord. The MRC scientists say in humans this would be vital for spinal injury patients who had lost sexual function and bowel and bladder control.

Do you find this study promising for spinal injury patients? Tell us what you think of the results of this research!

Source: BBC News

Image: Popsci