As we have seen, the uses of brain atlases are as varied as their construction. Their utility results from their capacity to measure, visualize, compare, and summarize brain images. An atlas can take on many forms, from descriptions of structure or function of the whole brain to maps of groups or populations. Individual systems of the brain can be mapped, as can changes over time, as in development or degeneration. An atlas enables comparison across individuals, modalities, or states. Differences between species can be catalogued. But in most cases, the value added by brain atlases is the unique and critical ability to integrate information from multiple sources. The utility of an atlas is dependent upon appropriate coordinate systems, registration, and deformation methods along with useful visualization strategies. Accurate and representative atlases of brain hold the most promise for helping to create a comprehensive understanding of brain in health and disease.
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