Scientists Have Found 97 New Regions In The Human Brain That Could Help Understanding The Organ A Lot Better

Ahmed Bilal
Posted Jul 21, 2016
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Scientists have finally managed to come up with a more detailed plan of the human brain by using the brain scans of a large number of human beings. This identification scheme allowed them to come up with no less than 100 new regions in the cerebral cortex.

There’s a lot more to the brain than we know yet

This is not the first time something like this is happening, scientists have been reading the human brain since long. But this new brain map outlines 180 cortical areas which shows scientists how humans talk, feel and think. This will also help them understand more in depth about disorders such as dementia, schizophrenia and autism among others.

The neuroscientist David Van Essen from the Washington University, who also led a number of international researchers, explains that “The brain is not like a computer that can support any operating system and run any software

“Instead, the software – how the brain works – is intimately correlated with the brain’s structure – its hardware, so to speak. If you want to find out what the brain can do, you have to understand how it is organized and wired.”

The Human Connectome Project

The Human Connectome Project, which was basically a long term study that included getting brain scans of 1,200 young adults with a custom built MRI machine, was the main source of data used to create the map by the team led by Essen. From this sample of 1,200 participants, the scans of 210 healthy young men and women were looked at. The cerebral cortex of the participants were measured and recorded as well as the outer layer containing the neural tissue was taken into account.

The participants were tested both when resting and doing simple mental tasks such as listening or doing memory tests. This was done to see how different regions of the brain responded to different tasks. After the collection of data the scientists used a machine learning algorithm, designed specifically by scientists at Oxford University in the UK, which is able to identify different regions of the brain and finds common coordinates between them.

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180 regions with 97 unique ones never known before!

As a result of all the hassle the scientists went through, around 180 new regions in the brain hemisphere (each) was finally mapped where 97 are new and particular to this new research which went unnoticed earlier.

“[T]here’s not a sharp dividing line where suddenly red turns to green or blue. Rather, there are gradual transitions, indicating that there’s intermixing and coordination among different sensory modalities and cognitive domains,” he said.

“They are based not on the folds of the cortex per se, but rather on the intricate interactions, communications, and connections between the many billions of neurons that make up the cerebral cortex.”

“Another interesting area is POS2,” one of the researchers, Matthew Glasser, told George Dvorsky at Gizmodo. “This is an area that had not previously been mapped before neuroanatomically. We don’t yet know what it is doing, but given its unique pattern, it will likely be something very specialised.”

Changing brain maps once and for all

These scientists want to change the old brain maps that are still used for reference purposes. They don’t want new generations to go through the same frustrations they did when they were studying. Some brain charts still used today are more than a century old, which need updates as soon as possible.

“My early work on language connectivity involved taking that 100-year-old map and trying to guess where Brodmann’s areas were in relation to the pathways underneath them,” Glasser said in a press release. “It quickly became obvious to me that we needed a better way to map the areas in the living brains that we were studying.”

There is still room for improvement

These researchers are also under no illusion that their work will be used for so long. They are well aware that their work will be improved upon further by new and upcoming neuroscientists. They are really hopeful for the future and if this research is developed upon it could very well give cures or better understanding to a lot of different disorders.

“We ended up with 180 areas in each hemisphere, but we don’t expect that to be the final number,” said Glasser. “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. In the future, researchers with better methods will subdivide that area. We focused on borders we are confident will stand the test of time.”

Although they are sure of what they have done, the refining points are always welcome of new and improved scientists since there’s still so much yet to be discovered about the brain.

“Our aspiration is to make the best possible maps that we can, but we have to be honest in saying our understanding, even with this new paper that’s come out, is not the equivalent of a Google map,” Essen told Motherboard. “We don’t have the ability to navigate the cerebral cortex down to the level of individual neurons or even tiny patches.”

Look at this video to find about more about the brain map.

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