Friday, February 22, 2013

Mapping the Brain: Live, and in Color

"Scans reveal intricate brain wiring"
Pallab Ghosh, BBC News (February 16, 2013)

"Scientists are set to release the first batch of data from a project designed to create the first map of the human brain.

"The project could help shed light on why some people are naturally scientific, musical or artistic.

(from the Human Connectome Project, via BBC News, used w/o permission)
"A side view of brain pathways, from the right. At far left is the visual cortex, connected by a large bundle, green, which connects to the frontal lobes. At centre, the vertical pathways in blue serve voluntary movement, connecting the motor areas of the brain with the spinal cord and muscles. The green path at centre is the right cingulum bundle, here seen from the side. The cerebellum, which controls coordinated movement, can be seen at bottom left." (BBC News)

"...The brain's wiring diagram is not like that of an electronic device which is fixed. It is thought that changes occur after each experience, and so each person's brain map is different - an ever changing record of who we are and what we have done.

"The HCP will be able to test the hypothesis that minds differ as connectomes differ, according to Dr Tim Behrens of Oxford University, UK.

" 'We're likely to learn a lot about human behaviour,' he told BBC News...." (Pallab Ghosh)

That, in the Lemming's considered opinion, is a massive understatement.

Studying the brain's circuits, and how they change as humans think and learn, will either confirm long-standing assumptions about how learning works: or force scientists to develop new explanations for what they've observed. Either way, we'll learn: a lot.

That, again in the Lemming's considered opinion, is a good thing. Being able to spot problems while they're still small, or letting folks know what they're likely to be good at doing, are some of what that article says we may get from this research.

On the other hand, the Lemming appreciates the knack some folks have for taking wonderful ideas and using them to hurt people. This new technology, and what'll probably be learned in the research, will probably be used to help a whole lot of folks. And, also probably, someone's going to find ways of misusing it.

Think "The Manchurian Candidate" with a dash of "The Brain That Wouldn't Die."

Who says you don't learn stuff from the movies? And that's another topic.

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