New Images Show The Brain Is Wired Like A Manhattan Grid

brain scan, human connectome project, fibres/ Image of a young adult’s brain. Click to enlarge.

Photo: Van Wedeen / Lawrence Wald / MGH / Science AAAS

The inner-workings of the human brain look less like a plate of spaghetti and more like an organised, functional grid that resembles Manhattan, based on research conducted by Dr. Van Wedeen, a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School, NPR reported.Through a process Wedeen invented called “diffusion spectrum imaging,” powerful scanners were used to take detailed pictures of the fibre pathways.

This process was formerly used to scan monkey brains, but the strenuous 24- to 48-hour process was impossible to conduct on humans, Wedeen told us. Now, just 30 minutes of a person’s time gets the same results.

“This is just the beginning of the anatomy of the brain,” Wedeen says. “Whereas before scientists could map locations in the brain and their functions, the ability to pick at specific fibres can lead to groundbreaking knowledge.”

For example, Wedeen says the grid-like structure in animal brains (like monkeys) and human brains might help support evolution.

Wedeen also works with the Human Connectome Project, which compares scans of “normal,” healthy brains to others to form conclusions about human personalities, functions and diseases like Alzheimer’s. 

Wedeen’s study, “The Geometric Structure of the Brain fibre Pathways,” was published in the journal Science.

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