Kitware and Harvard Map the Mammalian Connectome

August 28, 2012

Kitware is pleased to announce the development of a computational infrastructure for mapping the mammalian connectome. The project is supported by $999,981 in Phase 2 SBIR funding from the National Institutes of Health.

A human brain is estimated to have roughly 100 billion neurons connected through more than 100 thousand miles of axons and a quadrillion synaptic connections. The neural circuits within each brain are its connectome; understanding how the connectome works to enable cognition, consciousness, and intelligence is one of the most fundamental questions in science.

Advances in modern technology have made it easier to collect and prepare tissue samples for high-resolution scanning. This leads to digital representations of the connectome that are currently 60-70 terabytes in size, with this expected to grow rapidly as imaging technology improves.

Kitware will lead the development of a computational infrastructure that will include a set of segmentation algorithms that can extract neurons and their synapses from electron micrographs of serial tissue sections, and support arbitrarily large image volumes that will allow researchers to trace every neural process. Additionally, the suite will include fusion methods that take segmentation results as input and generate tracings of neural processes by linking segmentation results from one section to the next.

Dr. Charles Law will lead Kitware’s efforts and coordinate with subcontractors at Harvard. “Understanding the human connectome will make a huge impact on scientific research,” said Dr. Law. “It’s thrilling to be developing a platform that has the potential to reveal inner workings of the brain.”

For more information on the connectome project or Kitware’s other scientific computing initiatives, please contact

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