Mind Disorders May Be Better Understood With a 'Brain Atlas'

by Tanya Thomas on Sep 10 2010 10:43 AM

 Mind Disorders May Be Better Understood With a
Hoping to create a brain atlas, a researcher at Tel Aviv University is building on a previously developed tool to understand how different parts of the human brain "connect".
Dr. Yaniv Assaf of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Neurobiology is collaborating with an international team of scientists for the project.

Brain researchers already know that autism and schizophrenia are not localized disorders - there is no one place in the brain they can be found.

That’s why a brain atlas will be an invaluable resource for understanding how parts of our brain connect to other parts within, leading to a deeper understanding of these diseases.

"It’s currently impossible for clinicians to ’see’ subtle disorders in the brain that might cause a life-threatening, devastating disability," said Assaf.

For the study, Assaf looked at clusters of brain wiring, or axons, to help scientists produce a better working map of the brain for future research.

Assaf’s tool can look at larger groups of multiple axons and collect information from the group itself, information which measures the velocity and flow of information within the brain.

Using a standard MRI available in most major hospitals, Assaf’s tool, called AxCaliber, provides a way to recognize groups of abnormal axon clusters.

Systematically arranged into an atlas, these groups could serve as biomarkers for the early diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of brain disorders.

"Currently, we can map the healthy human brain past the age of puberty. But once we will assemble this atlas, we could do this scan before puberty - and maybe even in utero - to determine who’s at risk for disorders like schizophrenia, so that an early intervention therapy can be applied" said Assaf.