Three dimensions researchers can now visualize the location and activity of more than 21,000 genes in a normal mouse brain. The Allen Brain Atlas, funded with $100 million in seed money from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, is freely available on the web at www.brain-map.org, providing an enormous mine of information for brain researchers.
The atlas was created using in situ hybridization to show where each gene is turned on in a series of thin tissue sections spaced evenly throughout the brain. It’s overlaid on a “reference” atlas that demarcates the boundaries of all the significant brain structures.
One early finding of the project is that very few genes are turned on in only one region of the brain—paving the way for a better understanding the benefits and potential side effects of drug treatments.