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  • David Van Essen
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David Van Essen

Alumni Endowed Professor of Neuroscience, Washington University


The Van Essen lab uses neuroimaging approaches combined with novel methods of computerized brain mapping and neuroinformatics to explore the functional organization, connectivity, development, and evolution of cerebral cortex in humans and nonhuman primates. The Human Connectome Project (HCP; http://www.humanconnectome.org/) involves a large-scale collaborative effort to chart long-distance connectivity and its variability in healthy adult humans. Our contribution to the HCP includes the development and application of analysis methods for characterizing brain connectivity, and the development of a user-friendly platform for data mining of the HCP datasets that will be made freely available to the neuroscience community. Our studies of cortical development involve a collaborative effort with pediatric neurologists (Drs. Terrie Inder and Jeff Neil) to characterize normal and abnormal patterns of cortical folding in preterm infants. We also have characterized abnormalities in cortical folding in a variety of brain disorders, including Williams Syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, and ADHD. Our interests in evolution focus on comparisons of cortical organization in monkeys, apes, and humans, using surface-based atlases and interspecies surface-based registration. This approach enables objective evaluation of candidate homologies across species and quantitative assessments of cortical expansion during human evolution. The explosion of information in the neurosciences demands fresh approaches to data sharing and data mining. To this end, we have established the SumsDB database (http://sumsdb.wustl.edu/sums/) as a repository for many types of neuroimaging data. This includes a large and freely accessible library of stereotaxic coordinates, representing summary results from thousands of fMRI, PET, and structural imaging studies.