First Look at the "Structural Core" of the Human Brain

Illustration for article titled First Look at the "Structural Core" of the Human Brain

In this image, scientists reveal for the first time the solution to one of the brain's fundamental mysteries: Does it it have a core area that organizes thought? Or is it a diffuse set of neural connections? With this image, a team of Swiss and U.S. scientists present convincing evidence that the cerebral cortex (the outer layer of the brain where most rational thought takes place) has a core "central processor" region that helps organize the rest.


This is one of the first graphical representations of the network structure of our brains. The larger the circle, the more neural connections - highly connected areas create big circles, and areas of few connections are dots. You can see that the biggest circles are concentrated in the back of your brain, roughly in the middle between the two hemispheres. That central position for the core processor might be a result of high chatter levels between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Though everyone's brain is slightly different, most share this same fundamental neurological pattern. You can see an even more revealing image below.

Illustration for article titled First Look at the "Structural Core" of the Human Brain

Here, the bigger the red dot, the more neural connections formed in one area. The thicker the blue line, the greater the nerve fiber densities. So you can see areas that are highly connected, as well as connections that are used frequently.

The study was published in PLoS Biology today. PLoS' Liza Gross writes:

This study represents a major step toward mapping the connectivity patterns of the billions and billions of neurons whose interactions allow us to navigate the daily demands of human existence. The next major challenge will be to incorporate the brain's subcortical regions, such as the thalamus and basal ganglia, into a complete human "connectome" for structurally guided investigations of brain function. Until then, future studies can further explore the relationships between structure and function using the approach described here. And by comparing differences in structural and functional connectivity between individuals, researchers can begin to identify the neural basis of variation in human behavior.

Basically, this is an early network road map of the human brain. We can use it to figure out not just how we think, but where we think. Literally, we are looking at where thoughts traverse the structures of our brains.

Mapping the Connection Matrix of the Human Brain [PLoS Biology]



Annalee Newitz

@Legree17: I highly disagree. This is not a "rare" example of an important article being published in a public-access journal. PLoS journals publish crucial articles pretty much every week, and they are all public access. I suggest you check them out. Reed-El$evier journals can bite my metal ass.