The human brain is among the most complex biological objects known: more than 100 billion highly specialized cells, connected in specific ways, cooperate to engage in problem-solving, observation, empathy, insight, and direction of the human body. To fully understand the brain’s function and vulnerabilities, we must learn about the biological diversity across people.

An inventory of the human brain’s cellular components and their associated molecular repertoires – a cell atlas – will provide a powerfully enabling platform for translational neuroscience. Silhouettes of multiple people


The mission of the Center is to:

  • Create an essential atlas of the profound variation in human brain biology using the latest single-cell and spatial omics technologies
  • Share this data resource with the scientific and public communities
  • Expand our understanding of the ways the human brain varies in both healthy and neurological conditions and advance psychiatric research
  • Engage in outreach activities with a variety of organizations serving underrepresented groups

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Research overview

The Center’s research goals are to:

  • Construct an atlas of human brain cell variation using a large, diverse set of brain donors
  • Characterize the biological variation in the atlas
  • Use the biological variation to reveal and understand brain function and dysfunction.

Please see our research page for more information.

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Who we are

We are based at the Broad Institute of MIT & Harvard. Our interdisciplinary team of neuroscientists, human geneticists, computational biologists, and software engineers is led by Steve McCarroll, Evan Macosko, and Kiku Ichihara. The Center is funded by the NIH BRAIN initiative.

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Commitment to diversity, equity & inclusion

In our research

Our atlas of human brain variation aims to capture the diversity of normal human brain biology in a suitably inclusive way. Our objective is to sample variation broadly, not to compare groups. A pitfall we must avoid is to appear to make (or enable others to make) conclusions about any groups from what will likely be a small sample from a large, neurodiverse population.

We believe that the point of including a diverse set of donors is not to compare groups, but rather to define the range of normal human brain biology in a suitably inclusive way. This ethic will be reflected in the analyses we do and the analyses we choose not to do.

In our team

Our Center is committed to assembling a team with diverse perspectives, while fostering an inclusive environment where all members flourish.

Our core values

  • Inclusivity
  • Collaborative
  • Community
  • Integrity
  • Innovation
  • Exploration

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