Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Stuttering and the Brain Atlas

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, April 12, 2011) discussed the development of a comprehensive brain map, funded by Paul Allen, a cofounder of Microsoft. This computerized atlas of the human brain provides an interactive research tool to study the anatomy and the genes that underlie the mind and is freely available at

Specifically, the atlas provides a three dimensional interactive archive mapping overall brain anatomy at a high level of detail, nerve structure, cell features, and a comprehensive readout of gene activity. It may help researchers to understand the underlying brain biochemistry as well as where and how genes are at work in the brain. As such, it may provide clues to the root causes of neurological problems such as stuttering.

In the past, linking symptoms of a disease to the biochemistry of the genes that may be responsible for the disease had been very difficult. But the brain map identifies the location where a gene may be active in the brain, which is at the core for understanding how brain diseases work.

About 1000 anatomical landmarks had been catalogued for two normal adult brains (donated for research), which were then linked to the thousands of genes that act in complex combinations for normal neural development and function.

The researchers expect to add eight more brains to the database by the end of next year. It would be interesting to include brains of individuals suffering from various neurological ailments, including stuttering. Anyone wishing to contribute their brain should contact the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, Washington

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