Dr Mark Schira next to a large scan of a brain cross section

What’s going on inside your head? UOW researcher creates a unique 3D atlas of brain

What’s going on inside your head? UOW researcher creates a unique 3D atlas of brain

Neurobiologist Dr Mark Schira has mapped the living human brain to help scientific research, clinical treatment and education

Do you ever wonder what’s inside your head, always buzzing with thoughts, ideas and observations?

Dr Mark Schira, a neurobiologist from the University of Wollongong’s (UOW) School of Psychology, has taken this question much further and turned it into a quest to finally map the living human brain and its more than 1000 known structures with the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

“The premise of this project has been to visualise and define – for the first time in human history – the living brain and its architecture. We know a lot about how the brain is built, but until now, the living brain has never been captured in such a high resolution,” Dr Schira explained.

Since 2013, Dr Schira has been supervising the research group that focuses on the function, organisation and imaging of the human visual cortex.

For this revolutionary brain mapping project, the UOW researcher has teamed up with internationally recognised University of NSW neuroscientist Professor George Paxinos AO (whose most famous book, The Rat Brain in Stereotaxic Coordinates, has been ranked 10th on the global list of 50 most popular scientific titles) and Dr Steve Kassem, neuroscientist and psychologist from Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA).

"In a way, we’re like the old world’s discoverers who tried to map the territory of the Earth. Professor Paxinos is the modern Galileo because he did most of the original maps that allowed us to understand the organisation of the brain. We are reimagining these maps for the modern times, using the living brain to create a 3D atlas of superb quality," Dr Kassem said.

3D scan of the living human brain

Due to the lack of participants with sufficient patience to lie perfectly still for many hours, Dr Schira and Dr Kassem scanned their own brains to create the intricate mapping of the brain’s anatomical structure. Their ultimate goal is to make the 3D brain atlas an open-access resource, optimised for modern tablets and computers, and fit for convenient use in research, clinical practice, teaching and training.

"Previously, medical students had to use the flat pictures of parts of the brain to learn anatomy and functional areas of the brain, piecing the shape together bit by bit in their mind. Now, since the final images are in a 3D format, alongside GIFs and visualisations, the students’ learning process will be much easier," Dr Schira explained.


The final platform to host the 3D atlas is still under construction. You can follow the researchers’ exciting journey on Twitter https://twitter.com/HumanBrainAtlas and via this address: https://hba.neura.edu.au