Imagine taking a map of a city, shredding it into 7,400 pieces, then putting it back together. The first logical step would be to align all of the different functions: landmarks, subway systems and bus routes, residential areas, public arenas, libraries, sports and arts centers.
President Obama calls "the next great American project" one which involves mapping the brain to understand the origins of cognition, perception, and other enigmatic brain activities, which may lead to more effective treatments for conditions such as autism or mood disorders, and could also help veterans suffering from brain injuries.
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For centuries, neuroscientists believed they were arranged randomly, but new research has revealed that these connections are highly structured like that of a city.
"Before we just had driving directions. Now, we have a map showing how all the highways and byways are interconnected," said author Van Wedeen. The technique previously used involved the tracking of water diffusion through tissue; now, with advanced imaging, scientists are exploring how the regions connect to each other.
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Using powerful MRI scans, visual analysis reveals that formal organization and hidden relations of spatial systems in bodies are not unlike those in buildings. If you straighten out its folds, the brain consists of a three-dimensional grid of fibers.
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Today, x-ray vision is the norm; in section, plan, and in 3-D modeling, we are expected to see in an instant how the programmatic, structural, and infrastructure networks and systems all work in relation to each other.
The city-grid style arrangement makes sense when you think about the evolution of the brain, argues Weeden. Try going into your basement and randomly rewiring your house, he told New Scientist. "In a grid structure, it is much easier to imagine changes in the developmental code producing adaptive changes in behavior."
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