Largest-Ever Collection of Brain Maps Charts How the Brain Changes Over a Lifetime — from by Shelly Fan


Our brains are unique snowflakes that change shape throughout our lives. Yet buried underneath individual differences is a common throughline, with the brain growing rapidly during childhood then slowly declining with age.

But that’s just a crude sketch of an average brain’s lifetime. What are we missing?

A team of international scientists just gave us the first answers with a remarkable project called BrainChart. In a tour de force study published last week in Nature, they combined almost 125,000 brain scans covering the entire human lifespan, from before birth to death. The youngest sample was 15 weeks after conception; the oldest, a centenarian.

Even at this massive scale, the charts are just the first edition. The entire work is open sourced (you can check it out here), published with tools that allow other contributors to match up their brain scan data to the charts.

“You could imagine them being used to help evaluate patients screened for conditions such as Alzheimer’s, for example, allowing doctors to spot signs of neurodegeneration by comparing how rapidly a patient’s brain volume has changed compared to their peers,” said Bethlehem.