Israeli Researchers Build First ‘Atlas’ Of Brain Microstructure

By Judy Siegel-Itzkovich, The Jerusalem Post October 22, 2012 Comments

The healthy brains of 120 living people – not members of the Knesset, but other Israelis and some Europeans – have been scanned with a magnetic resonance instrument (MRI) to build the world’s first “atlas” of the microstructure of white matter.

Led by Prof. Yaniv Assaf of Tel Aviv University’s neurobiology department and the Sagol School of Neuroscience, the CONNECT project could eventually help identify the first signs of neurological and psychiatric diseases at an early stage in life so they could be treated early on.

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White matter is one of the two major parts of the central nervous system and consists mostly of glial cells and myelinated axons, which transmit signals from one area of the cerebrum to another and between the cerebrum and lower brain centers. Appearing pinkish-white to the naked eye, the myelin tissue is composed largely of lipid (fat) tissue veined with capillaries; when preserved in formaldehyde for storage, it looks white. It has a different function than the brain’s “gray matter,” which is composed of neurons (nerve cells).

While gray matter is involved mostly in cognition and processing, white matter is actively involved in how the brain learns and coordinates communication among different brain regions.

The three-year CONNECT project’s final results have the potential to change the face of neuroscience and medicine over the coming decade, according to the European Union consortium of 12 research groups in the project, which will be disclosed at a meeting of the researchers in Paris.

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Via The Jerusalem Post

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