Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A new way to map brains

Neuroscientists at Washington University Medical School created a method to build maps for individual brains:

(MIT Tech Review) Researcher Matthew Glasser says that unlike many previous studies, this map considers several features of the brain simultaneously to mark its boundaries. Some neuroscientists still define brain regions based on a historical map called Brodmann’s areas that was published in 1909. That map divided each half of the brain into 52 regions. Each hemisphere on the new map has 180 regions.

Glasser defined these regions by looking for places where multiple traits—such as the thickness of the cortex, its function, or its connectivity to other regions—were changing together. After drawing the map onto one set of brains, the researchers developed an algorithm to recognize the regions in a new set of brains where the size and boundaries vary from person to person. “It’s not just a map that people can make reference to,” Glasser says. “You can actually find the areas in the individuals that somebody is studying.”

From an innovation perspective, mapping methods create opportunities to systematically explore and coordinate knowledge about a broad class of objects. This particular approach enables scientists and engineers to move back and forth from generalized information about human brain to specific aspects in a particular brain. For example, we might be able to understand why 3D VR can replace painkillers in some medical applications.

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