Wide-eyed Wonder: an artist's musings on three-dimensional vision

Some are color blind. I am stereo blind.

New online brain map aides visual system research

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One of the factors for developing strabismus as an infant is whether other family members have the disorder. There often is a genetic connection in patient family history.

A new online atlas of the human brain is now available to researchers and anyone else with an internet connection. The visual cortex is being linked to the presence of specific genes here: http://www.brain-map.org/

An article in yesterday’s Wall St. Journal explains

A project of the Seattle-based Allen Institute for Brain Science, the online atlas offers researchers a powerful new tool to understand where and how genes are at work in the brain. That could help them find new clues to conditions rooted in the brain, such as Alzheimer’s disease, autism and mental-health disorders like depression.

In these two normal male brains, the connection between normal vision development and any genes that have been mapped can be more deeply explored. As more human brains are donated to the atlas for mapping, one day I would imagine a brain representing 4% of the population with strabismus will be donated, researched and mapped.

When I visited the site and searched for “visual cortex” a data list from two donors appeared. One link to an 8 year old boy showed a list of genes found in his right visual cortex with a link to the related gene symbols and name, ENC1 or ectodermal-neural cortex 1. This link goes to a page which has links to additional research on ENC1.

The second interesting link is from the brain-slice image, which takes you to a page with all the slices, and the visual cortex areas are labeled. One can zoom in on any of the images on the right and even see the cells.

The Allen Institute online brain map is breaking ground, with potential for further research into genetic connections for strabismus and stereo blindness.

Until now, researchers have been hard-pressed to link symptoms of the diseases they study to the biochemistry of genes that might be responsible for them. [1]

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Written by Lynda Rimke

April 16, 2011 at 10:26 am

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