CANARIE Applauds Canadian Team’s BigBrain Breakthrough

3D brain map created by McGill team evolved from CANARIE-funded CBRAIN brain imaging research platform

CANARIE, a vital component of Canada’s digital infrastructure supporting research, education and innovation, today adds its voice to the global chorus congratulating Dr. Alan Evans and his team from the Montreal Neurological Institute for their remarkable contribution to brain research- the BigBrain.

This breakthrough tool for neurologists is made up of 7,400 slices of the brain which have been digitized and assembled into a coherent 3D atlas. Now available to neuroscience researchers and clinicians worldwide through CBRAIN, a tool funded by CANARIE, the BigBrain provides an unprecedented level of detail on the world’s most complex structure, containing an astounding 86 billion neurons.


The BigBrain project is a collaboration between researchers in Canada and Germany, and is a compelling example of how advanced digital infrastructures supporting research and innovation are transforming the research endeavor and providing unparalleled new opportunities for scientific discovery.

The BigBrain project relies on three key elements of digital infrastructure:

  • advanced networks, like CANARIE and DFN in Germany, that transmit vast quantities of data;
  • Compute Canada/Calcul Canada’s high performance computing facilities, used to process BigBrain data;
  • and the research software and tools that enable a global community of scientists to access the BigBrain and conduct specific analyses.

CANARIE is continuing to fund the development of new research platforms and discrete software tools that can be used in a “plug and play” manner to build research platforms.

CBRAIN is one of twenty research platforms funded by CANARIE that provide valuable access to data and tools in a range of research disciplines, including astronomy, high energy particle physics, ocean sciences and distance medical education. The CBRAIN site may be found, and more information on CANARIE’s current research software development program may be found here.


“The BigBrain truly exemplifies the future of cutting-edge research, where global teams use the most advanced digital tools and infrastructures to open exciting new research frontiers,” explains Jim Roche, President and CEO of CANARIE. “I congratulate Dr. Evans and his team for this tremendous achievement and am proud that CANARIE was able to contribute to this truly innovative tool.”

“It will quickly become a universal standard, as it puts brain research data in one common scaffold,” said Dr. Evans, senior author of the BigBrain publication in Science and a professor at the Montreal Neurological Institute and McGill University. “We can reconfigure the functional neuroanatomy of the human brain. And that’s important for understanding how the brain is organized and how it works.”


The Big Brain dataset is being made available via the CBRAIN portal. CBRAIN is a research platform that provides scientists with unprecedented and immediate access to vast volumes of three-dimensional brain imaging data that is stored or being created across the country. These data are available to a broad range of researchers via CANARIE’s high-speed network.

CBRAIN allows researchers to access brain-related information and to visualize, manipulate, and exchange images of the human brain throughout various stages of development, and during progression of neurological disorders such as autism, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.


CBRAIN website

Science Article (account required for full access)

BioBrain video

For more news on the BigBrain Project, click here.

For more information, please contact:

Wynn Anne Sibbald Communications Manager
(613) 943-5432


CANARIE designs and delivers digital infrastructure for Canada’s research and education communities and drives the adoption of the latest . CANARIE keeps Canada at the forefront of digital research and innovation, fundamental to a vibrant digital economy.

CANARIE’s roots are in advanced networking, and CANARIE continues to evolve the national ultra-high-speed backbone network that enables data-intensive, leading-edge research and big science across Canada and around the world. One million researchers, scientists and students at over 1,100 Canadian institutions, including universities, colleges, research institutes, hospitals, and government laboratories have access to the CANARIE Network.

CANARIE also leads the development of research software tools that enable researchers to more quickly and easily access research data, tools, and peers. In support of Canada’s high-tech entrepreneurs, CANARIE offers cloud-computing services to help them accelerate product development and gain a competitive edge in the marketplace.

Twelve provincial and territorial network partners, together with CANARIE, form Canada’s advanced network alliance. This powerful digital infrastructure connects Canada’s researchers and innovators provincially, nationally, and globally to the data, tools, colleagues, and classrooms that are at the heart of prosperity in the digital economy.

Established in 1993, CANARIE is a non-profit corporation, with the major investment in its programs and activities provided by the Government of Canada.