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Dialogue | JIANG Tianzi‎: Brainnetome Mapping - a key to understanding the human brain and brain diseases
Date: 2022-06-27

Recently, Prof. JIANG Tianzi‎, the specially invited expert of the Research Center for Augmented Intelligence of the Research Institute of Artificial Intelligence of ZJ Lab, is successfully elected as the Council Chair of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping (OHBM).

As one of the most influential societies in the field of brain science research in the world, OHBM is committed to exploring, exploiting and learning the structures and functions of the human brain by using advanced brain imaging technology. Since founded in 1995, OHBM has been playing a critical leading role in promoting the neuroimaging and brain mapping technology, brain science research and clinical application, and provides neuroscientists with an open, fair and free communication and discussion platform for jointly investigating the development directions and challenges of brain science research.

What is brain mapping? Is brain mapping related to artificial intelligence? What are the plans and layout of ZJ Lab in the field of brain science? We will have a dialogue with Prof. JIANG Tianzi‎ and find out the answers to these questions.

Q1 What is brain mapping?

Prof. JIANG Tianzi‎: Brain mapping can be simply understood as a brain map (the results of brain mapping). It divides the human brain into different regions and defines the boundaries between regions. Currently, the academic circle defines the brain in different ways based on the functions, structures, or connection modes, and each way of definition can be considered as a brain map.

Q2 What is the difference between the brain mapping made by your team and others?

Prof. JIANG Tianzi‎: The most significant difference is that our brain mapping is drawn by using brain anatomical connection information, which can be drawn in the living body. The traditional brain mapping is generally carried out on the human brain tissue specimens. Through professional operations such as sectioning and staining the specimens, the cell morphology and distribution density on each slice are utilized to determine the boundaries between different regions, and then the division results on different slices are integrated into the complete 3D brain mapping. However, our team mainly obtains the human brain imaging data non-invasively through the living body MRI imaging and other technologies, then extracts and calculates the brain connection pattern information, and finally utilize the machine learning methods to objectively and accurately determine the boundaries of brain regions, and describe the connection modes and functions specific to each brain region. By using this method, we can not only obtain the refined divisions but can also provide the connection atlas between brain regions. Therefore, we name it Brainnetome mapping.

Q3 Is Brainnetome mapping applied in related fields?

Prof. JIANG Tianzi‎: Currently, the Brainnetome mapping made by our team has been extensively applied in such fields as brain cognition, brain disease and brain-like intelligence. Relevant study achievements have been consecutively published in major journals including Science, Nature, Medicine, etc. These articles have been cited nearly 1,200 times, and are also awarded major science and technology awards at home and abroad.

Taking degenerative diseases such as Parkinson's disease as examples, besides drug treatment, the current therapeutic methods also include the neuromodulation technique, of which the critical challenge is to determine the region for neuromodulation. Brainnetome mapping is the critical technical support for neuromodulation and precision medicine. Currently, the project team is developing a neuromodulation robot guided by Brainnetome mapping. The clinical trial is carried out in some hospitals at present. This technology can help clinicians realize accurate positioning and optimal regulation to achieve the ultimate goal to treat brain diseases.

Q4 What is the relationship between Brainnetome mapping and brain-like intelligence?

Prof. JIANG Tianzi‎: It is an important task of ZJ Lab to inspire the research of brain-like intelligence using Brainnetome mapping as an important tool. The two main aspects of the present study direction include: first, the important tools such as Brainnetome mapping are utilized to identify the brain networks and connections related to cognitive functions including memory, attention, and emotion in the human brain to deduce the mechanism of information processing in human brain, for constructing an artificial intelligent brain-like model that mimics the biological mechanism of the human brain with characteristics of simplicity, light weight and low consumption; second, a cross-species multiscale Brainnetome mapping is based to construct a digital twin brain model, which is equivalent to the digital simulation of the real human brain. The digital twin brain is not successfully developed at one time. We will absorb the latest research results in the field of brain science in the whole world, e.g., the multi-omics information including genome, transcriptome, proteome, etc., and continue to iterate and optimize the model to infinitely approach the functions and activities of the real human brain to improve the cognition of neuroscientists to the brain on the macro and micro scales.

Expert profile

Prof. JIANG Tianzi‎: Foreign member of the Academia Europaea (MAE), fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), director of the Brainnetome Research Center of the Institute of Automation, Chinese Academy of Sciences, director of the Beijing Key Laboratory of Brainnetome, and distinguished researcher of ZJ Lab, winner of National Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars, distinguished professor of Changjiang Scholars, chief scientist of 973 program, IEEE fellow, and IAPR fellow. Now he is the editorial board member of several international journals including Neural Networks, IEEE Transactions on Cognitive and Developmental Systems, etc., chairperson of Beijing Brainnetome and Brain Like Intelligence society, executive director of the Chinese Neuroscience Society, president of Chinese Society of Consciousness and its Disorders, executive director of Chinese Anatomical Society, and president of Chinese Society of Brainnetome. Now Mr. Jiang is devoted to the research of cross-modal multiscale brainnetome mapping, brain computer fusion and early prediction and precise treatment of brain diseases based on brainnetome mapping. He has published more than 350 articles on Nature, Medicine, etc. which are cited by SCI, and won more than 40 patents. He has won the Hermann von Helmholtz award of the International Neural Network Society, the top achievement award of the Electroencephalography and Clinical Neuroscience Society (Turan Itil Award), the outstanding contribution award of Wu Wenjun AI Science & Technology Award, the first prize of the Beijing Natural Science Award, and the second prize of the National Natural Science Award, etc.