Cytoarchitectonic mapping of brain areas in the first human brain model at microscopic resolution (BigBrain)
Germany (bvmd) - Heinrich-Heine-Universitaet, Duesseldorf
C. and O. Vogt Institute for Brain Research
Prof. Dr. med. Katrin Amunts
Priv.-Doz. Dr. med. Dr. rer. pol. Svenja Caspers
8 weeks
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Type of Research Project
- Basic science
What is the background of the project?
The human brain serves multiple functions, from sensory and motor up to various higher cognitive functions. This diversity is reflected at the microstructural level by differential arrangement of neurons in the cortical layers. This allows defining cortical areas based on this cytoarchitecture. A precise delineation of these areas enables exact identification of which parts of the brain are involved in which functions as revealed by functional neuroimaging studies. This is achieved by superimposing delineated cortical areas and functional imaging results in a common reference brain, which is like using an atlas for the brain. The BigBrain is the first reference brain at microscopic resolution, which allows virtual 3D delineation of cytoarchitectonic cortical areas, as compared to mapping on classical 2D sections.
What is the aim of the project?

The aim of the project is the delineation of two areas of the human primary somatosensory cortex in the BigBrain. These areas 3a and 3b receive input from skin mechanoreceptors and muscle spindles and process this information for further planning of movements or other actions. The microstructure of these two areas is known from previous studies. The idea is thus to use this established knowledge to identify these two areas in the BigBrain and delineate them from the surrounding cortex.
What techniques and methods are used?
The project makes use of classical neuroanatomical research techniques. 20 ?m thick sections, which were stained to visualize the cell bodies of the neurons, will be used to study the cytoarchitecture of the primary somatosensory cortex. Delineations will be made by visual inspection on coronal, sagittal, and horizontal cutting planes through the BigBrain. Additionally, the delineations will be confirmed via multivariate statistical analyses using an observer-independent mapping approach, which looks for maximal difference of the cytoarchitectonic pattern between neighboring parts of cortex.
What is the role of the student?
What are the tasks expected to be accomplished by the student?
Will there be any theoretical teaching provided (preliminary readings, lectures, courses, seminars etc)
Preliminary readings are highly recommended. Further on-site teaching of cytoarchitetonic mapping will be provided by the tutor during the visit of the student. Basic neuroanatomical knowledge is expected. The student is welcome to attend regular seminars of the institute
What is expected from the student at the end of the research exchange? What will be the general outcome of the student?
What skills are required of the student? Is there any special knowledge or a certain level of studies needed?
Basic neuroanatomical knowledge on the anatomy of the human brain is required and expected. The student shall have an interest for microscopy.
Lectures can be found from the following articles: Amunts K, Zilles K. 2010. Centenary of Brodmann's map - conception and fate. Nat Rev Neurosci 11, 139-145.
Zilles K, Amunts K. 2012. Architecture of the Cerebral Cortex. In: The Human Nervous System (Eds.: Mai JH, Paxinos G), Elsevier, pp. 836-895.
Amunts K, Lepage C, Borgeat L, Mohlberg H, Dickscheid T, Rousseau ME, Bludau S, Bazin PL, Lewis LB, Oros-Peusquens AM, Shah NJ, Lippert T, Zilles K, Evans AC. 2013. BigBrain: An ultrahigh-resolution 3D human brain model. Science 340, 1472-1475.
Geyer S, Schleicher A, Zilles K. 1999. Areas 3a, 3b, and 1 of human primary somatosensory cortex. 1. Microstructural organization and interindividual variability. NeuroImage 10, 63-83
Are there any legal limitations in the student’s involvement
Type of students accepted
This project accepts:
- Medical students
- Pre-Medical students from the American-British system
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