The future of human cerebral cartography: a novel approach

Cerebral cartography can be understood in a limited, static, neuroanatomical sense. Temporal information from electrical recordings contributes information on regional interactions adding a functional dimension. Selective tagging and imaging of molecules adds biochemical contributions. Cartographic detail can also be correlated with normal or abnormal psychological or behavioural data. Modem cerebral cartography is assimilating all these elements. Cartographers continue to collect ever more precise data in the hope that general principles of organization will emerge. However, even detailed cartographic data cannot generate knowledge without a multi-scale framework making it possible to relate individual observations and discoveries. We propose that, in the next quarter century, advances in cartography will result in progressively more accurate drafts of a data-led, multi-scale model of human brain structure and function. These blueprints will result from analysis of large volumes of neuroscientific and clinical data, by a process of reconstruction, modelling and simulation. This strategy will capitalize on remarkable recent developments in informatics and computer science and on the existence of much existing, addressable data and prior, though fragmented, knowledge. The models will instantiate principles that govern how the brain is organized at different levels and how different spatio-temporal scales relate to each other in an organ-centred context.

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