The Human Connectome Project: A retrospective

Jennifer Stine Elam, Matthew F. Glasser, Michael P. Harms, Stamatios N. Sotiropoulos, Jesper L.R. Andersson, Gregory C. Burgess, Sandra W. Curtiss, Robert Oostenveld, Linda J. Larson-Prior, Jan Mathijs Schoffelen, Michael R. Hodge, Eileen A. Cler, Daniel M. Marcus, Deanna M. Barch, Essa Yacoub, Stephen M. Smith, Kamil Ugurbil, David C. Van Essen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


The Human Connectome Project (HCP) was launched in 2010 as an ambitious effort to accelerate advances in human neuroimaging, particularly for measures of brain connectivity; apply these advances to study a large number of healthy young adults; and freely share the data and tools with the scientific community. NIH awarded grants to two consortia; this retrospective focuses on the “WU-Minn-Ox” HCP consortium centered at Washington University, the University of Minnesota, and University of Oxford. In just over 6 years, the WU-Minn-Ox consortium succeeded in its core objectives by: 1) improving MR scanner hardware, pulse sequence design, and image reconstruction methods, 2) acquiring and analyzing multimodal MRI and MEG data of unprecedented quality together with behavioral measures from more than 1100 HCP participants, and 3) freely sharing the data (via the ConnectomeDB database) and associated analysis and visualization tools. To date, more than 27 Petabytes of data have been shared, and 1538 papers acknowledging HCP data use have been published. The “HCP-style” neuroimaging paradigm has emerged as a set of best-practice strategies for optimizing data acquisition and analysis. This article reviews the history of the HCP, including comments on key events and decisions associated with major project components. We discuss several scientific advances using HCP data, including improved cortical parcellations, analyses of connectivity based on functional and diffusion MRI, and analyses of brain-behavior relationships. We also touch upon our efforts to develop and share a variety of associated data processing and analysis tools along with detailed documentation, tutorials, and an educational course to train the next generation of neuroimagers. We conclude with a look forward at opportunities and challenges facing the human neuroimaging field from the perspective of the HCP consortium.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number118543
Early online dateSep 8 2021
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the many members of the WU-Minn-Ox HCP Consortium for their dedicated efforts on this project and the HCP-style projects that have followed. Supported by NIH grants U54MH091657 ( HCP-YA: Mapping the Human Connectome: Structure, Function, and Heritability ), U01MH109589 ( HCP-D: Mapping the Human Connectome During Typical Development ), U01AG052564 ( HCP-A: Mapping the Human Connectome During Typical Aging ), 5R24MH108315 ( Connectome Coordination Facility (CCF I) , and 1R24MH122820 ( Connectome Coordination Facility II ). All grants listed above were funded by the 16 NIH Institutes and Centers that support the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research. HCP-YA was also funded by the McDonnell Center for Systems Neuroscience at Washington University.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s)


  • Behavior
  • Connectivity
  • Diffusion imaging
  • Functional MRI
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Parcellation
  • informatics


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