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Keywords:

  • biomedical imaging;
  • brain mapping;
  • cryosection imaging;
  • neuroanatomy;
  • atlas;
  • neuroimaging;
  • Alzheimer disease

Abstract

We review recent developments in brain mapping and computational anatomy that have greatly expanded our ability to analyze brain structure and function. The enormous diversity of brain maps and imaging methods has spurred the development of population-based digital brain atlases. These atlases store information on how the brain varies across age and gender, across time, in health and disease, and in large human populations. We describe how brain atlases, and the computational tools that align new datasets with them, facilitate comparison of brain data across experiments, laboratories, and from different imaging devices. The major methods are presented for the construction of probabilistic atlases, which store information on anatomic and functional variability in a population. Algorithms are reviewed that create composite brain maps and atlases based on multiple subjects. We show that group patterns of cortical organization, asymmetry, and disease-specific trends can be resolved that may not be apparent in individual brain maps. Finally, we describe the creation of four-dimensional (4D) maps that store information on the dynamics of brain change in development and disease. Digital atlases that correlate these maps show considerable promise in identifying general patterns of structural and functional variation in human populations, and how these features depend on demographic, genetic, cognitive, and clinical parameters. Anat Rec (New Anat) 265:37–53, 2001. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.