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The Human Connectome Project (HCP) is a five-year project sponsored by sixteen components of the National Institutes of Health, split between two consortia of research institutions. The project was launched in July 2009[1] as the first of three Grand Challenges of the NIH's Blueprint for Neuroscience Research.[2] On September 15, 2010, the NIH announced that it would award two grants: $30 million over five years to a consortium led by Washington University in Saint Louis and the University of Minnesota, and $8.5 million over three years to a consortium led by Harvard University, Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of California Los Angeles.[3]

The goal of the Human Connectome Project is to build a "network map" that will shed light on the anatomical and functional connectivity within the healthy human brain, as well as to produce a body of data that will facilitate research into brain disorders such as dyslexia, autism, Alzheimer's disease, and schizophrenia.[4]

WU-Minn consortiumEdit

The WU-Minn consortium will map the macro-scale connectomes in each of 1,200 healthy adults — twin pairs and their siblings from 300 families. The maps will show the anatomical and functional connections between parts of the brain for each individual, and will be related to behavioral test data. Comparing the connectomes and genetic data of genetically identical twins with fraternal twins will reveal the relative contributions of genes and environment in shaping brain circuitry and pinpoint relevant genetic variation. The maps will also shed light on how brain networks are organized.

Using a combination of non-invasive imaging technologies, including resting-state fMRI and task-based functional MRI, MEG and EEG, and diffusion MRI, the WU-Minn will be mapping connectomes at the macro scale — mapping large brain systems that can be divided into anatomically and functionally distinct areas, rather than mapping individual neurons.

Dozens of investigators and researchers from nine institutions will be contributing to this project. Research institutions include: Washington University in Saint Louis, the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research at the University of Minnesota, Oxford University, Saint Louis University, Indiana University, University d’Annunzio in Chieti, Ernst Strungmann Institute, Warwick University, Advanced MRI Technologies, and the University of California at Berkeley.

The data that results from this research will be made publicly available in an open-source web-accessible neuroinformatics platform.

MGH/Harvard-UCLA consortiumEdit

The MGH/Harvard-UCLA consortium will focus on optimizing MRI technology for imaging the brain’s structural connections using diffusion MRI, with a goal of increasing spatial resolution, quality, and speed. Diffusion MRI, employed in both projects, maps the brain's fibrous long distance connections by tracking the motion of water. Water diffusion patterns in different types of cells allow the detection of different types of tissues. Using this imaging method, the long extensions of neurons, called white matter, can be seen in sharp relief.[5]

The new scanner built at the MGH Martinos Center for this project is "4 to 8 times as powerful as conventional systems, enabling imaging of human neuroanatomy with much greater sensitivity than is currently possible."[3] The scanner has a maximum gradient strength of 300 mT/m and a slew rate of 200 T/m/s, with b-values tested up to 20,000. For comparison, a standard gradient is 45 mT/m, with a b-value of 700.[6][7]

The two consortia will be sharing data with each other, and a subset of subjects may be scanned in both projects.

Behavioral testing and measurementEdit

To understand the relationship between brain connectivity and behavior better, the Human Connectome Project will use a reliable and well-validated battery of measures that assess a wide range of human functions. The core of its battery is the tools and methods developed by the NIH Toolbox for Assessment of Neurological and Behavioral function.[8]

In popular cultureEdit

The alternative rock band Muse illustrated their sixth album (The 2nd Law) cover with a neural network representation based on the Human Connectome Project.[9]

See alsoEdit


  1. NIH Launches the Human Connectome Project to Unravel the Brain’s Connections, National Institutes of Health, 2009-07-15,, retrieved on 2013-02-16 
  2. The Human Connectome Project, National Institutes of Health,, retrieved on 2013-02-16 
  3. 3.0 3.1 $40 million awarded to trace human brain's connections, National Institutes of Health, 2010-09-15,, retrieved on 2013-02-16, "Souped-up scanners to reveal intricate circuitry in high resolution" 
  4. includeonly>Ghosh, Pallab, Van Wedeen, M.D.. "Inside the brain's wiring" (video), BBC News Online, 2013-02-16. Retrieved on 2013-02-16.
  5. Sample diffusion MRI image of brain, UCLA,, retrieved on 2013-02-16 
  6. [[Improving SNR in high b-value diffusion imaging using Gmax = 300 mT/m human gradients, Proc. Intl. Soc. Mag. Reson. Med. 20 (2012) 2738��|Improving SNR in high b-value diffusion imaging using Gmax = 300 mT/m human gradients, Proc. Intl. Soc. Mag. Reson. Med. 20 (2012) 2738]]
  8., Retrieved 2013-03-08
  9. The 2nd Law Cover Revealed, Muse, 2012-07-30,,the-2nd-law-album-cover-revealed_1372.htm, retrieved on 2013-02-16 

External linksEdit

Related Connectome Projects
Press releases
News reports
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