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Among his contributions to science and applied medicine is the Talairach coordinate system of the human brain, which is used to describe the location of brain structures independent from individual differences in the size and overall shape of the brain.
By defining standard anatomical landmarks that could be identified on different subjects (starting with the posterior commissure and anterior commissure), it became easier to spatially warp an individual brain image obtained through NMR, Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and other imaging methods to this 'standard Talairach space'. One can then make inferences about tissue identity at a specific location by referring to the atlas. One disadvantage of the Talairach coordinate atlas is the approximate method of labeling a tissue-specific Brodmann area based on gross visual inspection rather than histological examination. Additionally, the brain examined for creation of the atlas was a post-mortem sample from a woman with a smaller than average cranium. Indeed, in the forward to their monograph, Talairach & Tournoux note that "Because of the variability in brain size, specifically at the level of the telencephalon, this method is valid with precision only for the brain under consideration." This means that most individual brains must be considerably warped to fit the small size of the atlas, inducing some error. Nonetheless, the Talairach atlas is an invaluable tool in modern neuroimaging, and paved the way for more representative brain atlases including the MNI atlas.
J. Talairach and P. Tournoux, "Co-planar Stereotaxic Atlas of the Human Brain: 3-Dimensional Proportional System - an Approach to Cerebral Imaging", Thieme Medical Publishers, New York, NY, 1988
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