Monday, April 18, 2011

First human brain map unveiled

Today NewScientist reported that the world's first computerized map of the brain was unveiled last week by neuroscientists at the Allen Institute for Brain Science.

The FREE interactive brain map must be downloaded and installed on your computer at   It's fun . . . you should try it! 

You can see both of two brains used to produce the maps and check which parts of the brain you want to see.  Each is shown in a different color and you check and uncheck brain parts as you explore.  For example, you can visualize just the cerebral nuclei, then add in the cerebral cortex.  You can also click on each part of the cortex and it will highlight (and name) the particular gyrus or region that you are on.

There are far more features than I've had the time to explore . . . and far more than I'll need to use in the classroom to help my students visualize the brain's structure.

All these richer features are available because it's meant as a research tool rather than a teaching tool.  The new map can show the biochemistry and gene expression at various sites based on in depth studies done on two human brains, for example.  But you don't have to use any of the richer features.

One of many interesting and useful tidbits of information that has come out of the research end of the project is that there is a 94% similarity in the biochemistry of the two human brains used int he study.

Another interesting fact is that at least 82% of all human genes are expressed in the human brain.  (Except perhaps in mine, especially on Fridays.)

While exploring the website at Allen Institute for Brain Science I also stumbled upon a nifty, interactive tool that I'll also probably use in my A&P course.  This FREE tool allows you to view different planes of the brain simultaneously while navigating around the brain.  I imagine that this tool would be fun to use in class to visualize anatomical relationships of the brain as students themselves navigate around and answer their own questions about the general nature of brain structure.

Want to know more?

World's first human brain map unveiled
H. Crawford
NewScientist published online 15 April 2011
[Brief news synopsis with images of applications of the new brain map]

Allen Institute's online MRI explorer
[FREE interactive tool that allows you to explore a human brain MRI to visualize brain structure at different levels that you control.]

Allen Institute's download page for Brain Explorer 2
[FREE interactive tool that allows researchers to locate biochemistry and/or gene expression at specific brain locations.]

No comments:

Post a Comment