The age of exploration has long passed, but there is at least one area still largely uncharted: the human brain.
A detailed new map by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis lays out the landscape of the human cerebral cortex. The map will accelerate progress in the study of brain diseases, as well as help to elucidate what makes us unique as a species.
With the features of a typical brain demarcated in painstaking detail, the new map will be a boon to researchers studying brain disorders such as autism, schizophrenia, dementia and epilepsy.
The work will be published July 20 in Nature.
The new map divides both the left and right cerebral hemispheres into 180 areas based on physical differences (such as the thickness of the cortex), functional distinctions (such as which areas respond to language stimuli), and differences in the connections of the areas.
Some of those areas are clearly involved in particular tasks, such as 55b, which lights up with activity when a person hears a story. Others contain a map of a person’s field of vision, or are involved in controlling movement.
Like cartographers of old, brain cartographers primarily are providing a tool for others to use in exploration and discovery.