Scientists Map the 10 Billion Neurons of Human Cerebral Cortex & Find a Central Switchboard

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July 02, 2008

Scientists Map the 10 Billion Neurons of Human Cerebral Cortex & Find a Central Switchboard

Human_brain_as_belief_engine The study of the human brain is one of the most fascinating, and incredibly meta, subjects in existence.  The almost Escherian experiments of one brain studying another brain (which is thinking about being studied by the first) have up to now been held back by one thing: the brain's owner is kind of using it so you can't poke too hard.  Now a new scanning technique has allowed scientists to probe deeper than ever into the secrets of the mind.

The non-invasive technique of Diffusive Spectrum Imaging (DSI) has enabled an international team of scientists to get inside the human head without breaking anything.  The system has mapped the mass of ten billion neurons that make up the human cerebral cortex - and found a central switchboard hiding inside, a densely-packed region of connections which works hard even when the rest of the brain is chilling out.

The cerebral cortex is everything you think of as you, a surface coated in neurons connected by a vast network of synapses (whose myelin sheaths make up the famous "grey matter").  DSI imaging revealed the central hub connecting both hemispheres of the brain and various other bits and pieces.

As well as understanding our minds, the work could be a vital step in building new ones - one goal of the research is to enable researchers to accurately model the system, and depending on your philosophical bent, a computer that can think what a conscious mind thinks could be pretty much the same thing.  Vital data for such simulation systems comes in the form of cortical weighting matrices derived from the DSI studies.

A "Cortical Core Matrix" sounds like something Sarah Connor has to reprogram to stop Arnold Schwarzzeneger from killing her, but it sitting behind your eyes right now and the team is working out what it does.  Its location, structure and measured activity patterns indicate that it acts as central router for manifold mental functions - so the next time you're cursing a slow-loading connection, do so in the smug knowledge that your own skull can do a better job.

Posted by Luke McKinney.

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Source: Cortical Core

Comments

Myelin makes up white matter, dumbass

Innaccurate pile of crap. If people are going to stumble interesting neuroscience articles PLEASE make sure they are vaguelly informative.

The area they found is located cortically NOT 'deep within the brain'. I think this is a misunderstanding on the word 'core'. The cortex is the outer layer, which is grey NOT because of myelin but rather the lack of myelin, allowing for more diffuse connections. It is not the sum of who you are- your CNS is the sum of who you are and that includes sub-cortical structures such as the thalamus. Incidentally it is also not a major connection between the two hemispheres. That's the corpus callosum, a sub-cortical structure in the middle of the brain (which we've known about for a very long time).

The original article for anyone interested is http://biology.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371/j ournal.pbio.0060159&ct=1

Quoted from the original article: 'Several techniques reveal the existence of a set of posterior medial and parietal cortical regions that form a densely interconnected and topologically central core. The structural core contains numerous connector hubs, and these areas link the core with modules in temporal and frontal cortex.'

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