BigBrain project indebted to Compute Canada

Millions of hours of data processing time on Compute Canada's advanced computing facilities have helped an international team of researchers complete the world’s first high-resolution 3D digital model of the human brain.

The BigBrain Project, involving researchers from Germany and Canada, has unveiled a whole-brain model at 50 times the resolution, in each of the three spatial dimensions, of previous models. This reveals microstructural brain organisation at an unprecedented level of detail. Results from the study were recently published in the journal Science.

The model was created by slicing a 65-year-old human female’s donated brain into hair-thin sections, scanning them, and then using corrective software and intensive data processing to refine and correct each digital scan to produce the highest resolution 3D model of the brain to date.

'Our integration of multiple Compute Canada clusters across the country has allowed us to tackle increasingly complex problems, which is revolutionising our ability to understand internal brain organisation,' said Alan Evans, senior author of the BigBrain study and a professor at the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University in Montreal, QC. 'This year alone, Compute Canada will have provided us with 6.2 million compute hours, without which we simply could not conduct our science at this level.'

Evans called the BigBrain project a tour-de-force, requiring thousands of hours to assemble more than 7,400 images of individual histological sections, each with its own distortions, rips and tears, into a coherent 3D volume. Until recently, reference brains did not probe further than the macroscopic, or visible, components of the brain.

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