Researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health have reached a milestone in their quest to catalog the brain’s “parts list.” The NIH BRAIN Initiative Cell Census Network (BICCN) has issued its first data release. Posted on a public web portal (link is external) for researchers, it profiles molecular identities of more than 1.3 million mouse brain cells and anatomical data from 300 mouse brains – among the largest such characterizations to date.
BICCN research teams (link is external) focused initially on a key area of the mouse motor cortex, an area of the brain that controls movement, as a first major step in the 5-year effort. Initiated in 2017, the BICCN projects aim to build comprehensive, three-dimensional common reference brain atlases that will ultimately integrate molecular, anatomical and functional data on cell types in mouse, human and non-human primate brains. To expedite scientific impact, they are making their data immediately available to the research community via the web portal.
“No single research group could do this by themselves—they needed to leverage the power of a team,” explained Joshua Gordon, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), which is helping to coordinate the BRAIN Initiative effort. “The BICCN is a product of nine different teams each bringing to bear their finely-honed tools to the same brain region at the same time. By doing so, they could compare results and create a unified resource for the community.”