Photograph by Robert Clark; brain preparation performed at Allen Institute for Brain Science
Centuries of study have provided increasingly detailed understanding of human brain anatomy.
Mind Machine. Photograph by Robert Clark
An engineer wears a helmet of sensors at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging—part of a brain scanner requiring almost as much power as a nuclear submarine. Antennas pick up signals produced when the scanner’s magnetic field excites water molecules in the brain. Computers convert this data into brain maps like the one in the following image.
The Color of Thought. Image by Van Weeden and L. L. Wald, Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Human Connectome Project
Scientists are turning their attention to the complex circuits that connect the brain’s many regions—some 100,000 miles of fibers called white matter, enough to circle the Earth four times. In this image taken at the Martinos Center, pink and orange bundles transmit signals critical for language.
Anatomy of a Mystery Image by Van Weeden and L. L. Wald, Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Human Connectome Project
New technologies let scientists peer deep into the hidden structure of the brain. A high-resolution view of the image above reveals white matter fibers arranged in a mysterious grid structure, like longitude and latitude lines on a map.
The Glow of Memory Image by Garrett Gross and Don Arnold, University of Southern California
When you form a memory, “there’s a physical change in the brain,” says Don Arnold, of the University of Southern California. Red and green dots on the branches extending from this rat neuron show where it contacts other neurons. As the rat forms new memories, new dots appear and old ones vanish.
Intimate View Photograph by Robert Clark
Two hundred sections of a piece of mouse brain, each less than 1/1,000 the thickness of a human hair, are readied to be imaged by an electron microscope. Arranged in stacks, 10,000 such photomicrographs form a 3-D model no larger than a grain of salt (in tweezers).
Intimate View Image by Josh L. Morgan, Harvard University; Arthur Wetzel, Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center
Arranged in stacks, 10,000 photomicrographs form a 3-D model no larger than a grain of salt. A human brain visualized at this level of detail would require an amount of data equal to all the written material in all the libraries of the world.
Jennifer on the Brain
Caltech and UCLA scientists use pictures of celebrities to study how the brain processes what the eyes see. In 2005 they found an individual nerve cell that fired only when subjects were shown pictures of Jennifer Aniston. Another neuron responded only to pictures of Halle Berry—even when she was masked as Catwoman. Follow-up studies suggest that relatively few neurons are involved in representing any given person, place, or concept, making the brain staggeringly efficient at storing information.
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