New brain map most detailed yet

Tool shows 360 distinct areas of cortex

brain map

MAPPING NEW TERRITORY  Each side of the outer layer of the human brain can be parceled into 180 distinct areas, a new analysis suggests. 

Matthew F. Glasser, D.C. Van Essen

Analyzing a bevy of diverse data, scientists have drawn a new map of the human brain in extreme relief. Their approach demarcated 180 areas in each half of the outer layer of the brain — including 97 regions in each half that haven’t been described before. The high-resolution map will allow scientists to more precisely scrutinize brain regions and see how they change with, for instance, age and disease.

Many previous maps of the brain have been built with just one type of data. The new map, described July 20 in Nature, forms a holistic view of the brain by combining several different types of information. These specs included how areas behaved while doing certain tasks or nothing at all, as well as detailed anatomical data about the shape and thickness of the brain. Using these metrics from 210 healthy people, neuroscientist David Van Essen of Washington University in St. Louis and colleagues found that each hemisphere contains 180 distinct areas (separated by black lines in image). In this view, colors show how tightly linked each area is to other brain areas that handle auditory (red), touch and movement (green) or visual (blue) information. 

Laura Sanders is the neuroscience writer. She holds a Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Southern California.

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