Mapping Our Brains is a Big Data Challenge

The research team that helped spearhead the international brain-mapping project known as BigBrain is about to get a boost in its effort to produce higher-resolution brain maps, thanks to technology from EMC.

McGill University in Montreal will establish a research-and-development centre that will serve as a test bed to adapt EMC Isilon scale-out NAS for visualization and data-storage technology to support the complex needs of leading-edge neuroscience. The new centre will be expanded in coming years to encompass research across the university, reflecting the increased role of Big Data in research.

“EMC’s next-generation technologies, being harnessed by McGill University, provides researchers an advanced and agile foundation for healthcare and life sciences professionals to store, protect, share, and analyze their most valuable asset: information,” said Mike Sharun, EMC Corporation of Canada Country Manager.

Developing a fuller understanding of the brain’s circuitry represents a huge challenge, with an estimated 100 billion neurons in the brain and 1,000 trillion neuronal connections (10,000 per neuron) triggering thoughts and actions. mprove brain health in Canada and around the world.

“A single high-resolution dataset for a full brain now requires over 200 terabytes of disk space for raw data alone,” says Alan Evans, the McGill brain-imaging expert who worked with European scientists to produce the BigBrain map. “EMC’s storage and visualization technologies will help us take brain imaging to the next level – from the equivalent of old fashioned street maps to Google Earth.”

EMC’s work with McGill also promises to bolster brain research across Canada. The NeuroHub will also be an important link with brain researchers in the US, Europe, China and Latin America, and will be used by neuroscientists working with different types of brain data.

“McGill is proud to take this remarkable step forward in collaboration with EMC Canada,” said Rosie Goldstein, McGill University (Vice-Principal – Research and Innovation). “The highly specialized technology and high velocity data capture made possible by NeuroHub will enable researchers to better understand existing pathologies and predict treatment outcomes.”