Clearest ever 'map' of the human brain reveals 100 hidden regions

The human brain is a little bit less of a mystery today, thanks to new maps from neuroscientists at Washington University Medical School. In other words, the study of the brain is inseparably the study of the mind; and the better we understand our brains, the better we understand ourselves.

Finally, the team took in the brain's entire breadth, unlike neuroscientists of past generations who looked at only part of the cerebral cortex.

M. Glasser et al, "A multi-modal parcellation of human cerebral cortex", Nature, doi:10.1038/nature18933, 2016.

A new map of the brain is based on data collected by the Human Connectome Project. The brain is an intricate mass of chemicals and emotion to us, but to your everyday neurosurgeon or researcher, the complexities are so in-depth that they're still learning all about it. Instead, the brain function (software) works by being intimately linked with its structure (hardware).

Scientists just revealed a breakthrough discovery on how gray matter can apparently possess consciousness, by mapping the mysterious regions of the human brain.

During the experiment, the researchers divided the brain into 180 cortical areas, including 97 new ones. Uncertain delineation of cortex areas has sometimes led to shaky comparability of brain imaging findings.

The Human Connectome Project was launched in July 2009, and it is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

A German neuroanatomist, Korbinian Brodmann, first mapped the human cortex in the first decade of the 20th century. That algorithm was able to process the trove of incoming data and identify regions that would normally be invisible to the researchers.

Even if there are dozens of newly-found regions in the brain, the function of each must be researched separately to delve further into the subdivisions within brain structure.

Matthew F. Glasser, David C. Van Essen A map of myelin content (fatty insulation surrounding the brain's nerves) in the left hemisphere of the cerebral cortex. He had worked on HCP but named the new brain map as "awe-inspiring" due to its precision compared to previous efforts.

The image shows the pattern of brain activation and deactivation in the left hemisphere when listening to stories while in the MRI scanner. These results were obtained by the Human Connectome Project in a large population of
Clearest ever 'map' of the human brain reveals 100 hidden regions

Dr Emma Robinson, from the Department of Computing at Imperial, talks to Colin Smith about her work in brain imaging and how it is contributing to The Human Connectome Project. Areas like 55b, which lights up with activity when a person listens to a story, are clearly involved in specific tasks. "In some cases, we identified a patch of cortex that probably could be subdivided, but we couldn't confidently draw borders with our current data and techniques".

Think of a spinning globe and the patchwork of countries it depicts: such maps help us to understand where we are, and that nations differ from one another.

A number of the previously unidentified areas are located within the "dorsolateral prefrontal cortex", according to Van Essen, which controls a host of functions including working memory and planning.

The researchers then cross-checked and confirmed their findings with another cohort of 210 people.

David Van Essen and his team mapped out 180 different brain regions.

The team plans to continue to their research, which they hope will help them figure out what areas of the cortex have not been discovered as well as what goal those areas serve.

The scientists improved on prior maps by aligning the brain to a standard coordinate system using a novel algorithm, and by using the highest-quality MRI information available.

"In the past, it was not always clear whether the results from two separate neuroimaging studies referred to the same area or not", Glasser said.

Kleinfeld predicted that other researchers will find ways to verify the new map's accuracy. He added the idea of a complete cortical map has been thought about "as far back as I can remember".

Finally, perhaps as important as the map itself, the team created a "classifier" to recognize the cortical areas in any brain studied.

  • Aubrey Nash