A combined team of researchers from Washington University in St. Louis and the Human Connectome Project, has identified 97 previously unknown regions of the human brain. The updated map, which has been described by The New York Times as “an unprecedented glimpse into the machinery of the human mind” will help researchers better understand “virtually every aspect of the brain”, and may lead to breakthroughs in neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s, autism, schizophrenia, dementia and epilepsy.
For the study, researchers scanned 1,200 young adults with a powerful MRI machine. They then recorded participants brain activity while being given simple tasks like doing math or listening to stories to see which regions of the brain lit up. Researchers found that certain regions of the brain, such as the region which goes by the name 55b – part of a language network in the brain, clearly involves with listening to a story, while some regions are involved in controlling movement or some contain a map of a person’s field of vision. Also beside making a precise, well-defined map, the researchers also developed an alignment algorithm so that the results of separate studies could be “accurately compared”.
The researchers divided the human brain into 180 (97 of which are completely new) cortical areas in each of brain’s hemispheres. The researchers, in fact, are not even sure what some of them do, but some of the regions they know of do not stick around performing specific functions. Instead they also “provide assistance and pass signals to other parts of the brain,” Engadget notes.
The new map, using the algorithm, can map a subject’s brain with 96.6 percent accuracy. Hopefully, the study will help researchers better understand how different areas of the brain work more accurately than ever and how they impact human behavior. David McCormick, a neuroscience and psychology professor at Yale says that the algorithm is going to help [them] understand amazing things about behavior and how the cortex underlies it, in a statement at the Verge. The findings of the study have been published in the journal Nature.
- Source: Washington University
- Reference: A Multi-Modal Parcellation Of Human Cerebral Cortex