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NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research RFA: The Human Connectome Project

NAMHC Concept Clearance

Presenter

Michael F. Huerta, Ph.D.
Chair, NIH Blueprint Grand Challenge Imaging Team
Co-Chair, NIH Blueprint Coordinating Committee
Associate Director, NIMH 

Goal

The goal of the five year Human Connectome Project (HCP) is to develop and share knowledge about the structural and functional connectivity of the human brain. 

Rationale

Neural connectivity is a basic feature of brain organization and a major organizing principle of neuroscience knowledge.  For human brains, however, no connectivity data exist in any comprehensive, systematic, or modern sense.  In the past five years, several non-invasive imaging technologies have emerged that can acquire structural and functional connectivity data from human brains, in vivo.  Researchers studying human brain function in health and illness have increasingly realized the importance of connectivity data to unravel the mystery of how the mind works. 

The purpose of the HCP will be achieved through a range of research activities.  The HCP will support the optimization and combination of already existing cutting-edge, non-invasive imaging technologies to acquire structural and functional in vivo data about axonal projections and neural connections, with the aim of collecting data from hundreds of healthy adults. HCP will also support the collection of demographic, sensory, motor, cognitive, emotional, and social function data from each participant.  DNA samples collected from each participant, from which whole genome single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotype data could be derived, would strongly encouraged through the HCP, as would the collection of blood for generating cell lines. Investigators funded through the HCP will develop models to better understand and use these data, linking connectivity patterns to existing architectonic data.  NIH will rapidly make data and models available to the research community via a user-friendly informatics framework to include tools to query, organize, visualize and analyze data and use the models.  Outreach efforts will engage and educate the research community about the imaging tools, data, models, and the informatics platform.

Specific initiative goals and scientific areas of interest: 

  • A set of integrated, non-invasive imaging tools to obtain connectivity data from humans in vivo
  • A high quality and well-characterized quantitative set of three-dimensional human connectivity data linked to demographic, behavioral, and genetic data, as well as to existing architectonic data and associated models, from up to hundreds of healthy adult men and women
  • Rapid, user-friendly dissemination of connectivity data, models, and tools to the research community via outreach activities and an informatics platform

The Human Connectome Project is poised to provide a qualitatively novel and crucial class of data for understanding the human brain in health and illness.  By advancing capabilities for non-invasively obtaining connectivity data from humans and by producing robust datasets, models, and analytic tools, the Human Connectome Project represents a potentially transformative initiative.  Dissemination of the fruits of this initiative and outreach to educate and engage the research community in human connectomics will help ensure that this transformative potential is realized.

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