The idea is to perform computer simulations using the three-dimensional model, also called an atlas, in ways that weren't possible before, said a professor of neurology at the Montréal Neurological Institute at McGill University, and another co-author. Functional MRI scans are relatively crude.
Other scientists in the field say BigBrain could be a helpful tool. "For instance, you can perform MRIs in patients with severe traumatic injury, both with favorable and unfavorable outcome, apply the atlas and determine by which regions they differ," said Damien Galanaud, at the department of neuroradiology at Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris, who studies traumatic brain injuries, and was not involved in the study.
The only down side, Galanaud added, such a study wouldn't necessarily offer a complete picture, because sometimes brain anatomy is changed when there's a severe injury. So it would require additional "smoothing" of the differences between the inured brain and the model.
Warren Selman, chairman of the department of neurological surgery at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, said one issue is connectivity: the model brain, being from a dead person, won't show the communications signals between neurons that makes a brain work. "You've got to find out what kind of talk [between cells] is going on at this level," he said. "Then it starts to get exciting."