Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Creating a Google Earth of the Brain

A recent New York Times article describes a $50 million project by more than a dozen research centers aiming to create a sort of Google Earth of the brain. In a series of 11 papers, published in Science and related journals, a consortium of researchers has produced the most richly detailed model of the brain’s genetic landscape to date, one that incorporates not only genes but also gene regulators, cellular data and developmental information across the human life span.

The PsychENCODE Consortium, initiated in 2015 and financed by the National Institute of Mental Health, involves more than a dozen research centers and scores of specialists in cell biology, genetics and bioinformatics. It is an all-hands, brute-force effort, coordinating top brain banks and brain scientists at major research centers, led by Yale, Mount Sinai, UCLA, and UCSF.


Dr. Matthew State, chair of the department of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, and a co-author on two of the papers, said: “Essentially what these papers do is lay out cellular and molecular landscape at a resolution that’s never existed before. I see it as foundational work, and an investment that will pay off in giving us a far richer context to develop new hypotheses and study these disorders.”

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