A map of the brain

Humans have long held a fascination for the human brain. We chart it, we’ve described it, we’ve drawn it, we’ve mapped it. Now just like the physical maps of our world that have been highly influenced by technology — think Google Maps, think GPS — the same thing is happening for brain mapping through transformation.

So let’s take a look at the brain. Most people, when they first look at a fresh human brain, they say, “It doesn’t look what you’re typically looking at when someone shows you a brain.” Typically, what you’re looking at is a fixed brain. It’s gray. And this outer layer, this is the vasculature, which is incredible, around a human brain. This is the blood vessels. 20 percent of the oxygen coming from your lungs, 20 percent of the blood pumped from your heart, is servicing this one organ. That’s basically, if you hold two fists together, it’s just slightly larger than the two fists.

Scientists, sort of at the end of the 20th century, learned that they could track blood flow to map non-invasively where activity was going on in the human brain. So for example, they can see in the back part of the brain, which is just turning around there. There’s the cerebellum; that’s keeping you upright right now. It’s keeping me standing. It’s involved in coordinated movement. On the side here, this is temporal cortex. This is the area where primary auditory processing — so you’re hearing my words, you’re sending it up into higher language processing centers. Towards the front of the brain is the place in which all of the more complex thought, decision making — it’s the last to mature in late adulthood. This is where all your decision-making processes are going on. It’s the place where you’re deciding right now you probably aren’t going to order the steak for dinner. Click here to read more …

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