The human brain is one of the most complex and intriguing organs and it doesn’t cease to amaze us. What if we could unlock its secrets and understand how exactly it works? Something like this has just become a little more feasible thanks to a recent achievement in science and technology.
The connections of axons (or nerve fibers) between the sections of the brain look more like a “chessboard” than a “ball” or a “plate of spaghetti”, claims a recent study, which did detailed imaging of the neural structure of the human brain.
Using the latest techniques of recording the flow of water molecules in the brain, scientists revealed a simple and almost geometric architecture of the nerve fiber net, which has been nominated “the most complex thing in the known universe.”
The Neural Structure of the Brain
Researchers at the Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging of Massachusetts General Hospital, led by Dr. Van Wedeen, published their findings in the Science magazine.
Experts received three-dimensional images that resemble a cubic lattice without diagonals. As they said, the brain is far from being a mess of neural wirings, as their connections look more like ribbon cables forming right angles to each other.
Scientists hope that the more clear the brain map becomes, the easier the treatment of pathological deviations in the wiring of the neural system will be. Thus, the diagnosis and the treatment of various diseases (especially neurological) will be more timely.
As the brain develops in early childhood, the connections between its parts evolve mostly on vertical and horizontal axes. This neural structure seems to continuously guide neural wirings as highways, which are not popping up in every direction, but to the left, to the right, up or down.
In this way, as estimated by neuroscientists, the brain has found a regular, organized, and efficient way to evolve and adapt.
Axons form a part of the white matter and allow different specialized brain regions to communicate and coordinate their actions and reactions. In the gray matter, on the surface of the brain, the axon net is more irregular and non-geometric. The deeper you go, the neater the structure of the neural plexus shows.
However, some scientists stay cautious and consider the revealed architecture of the brain wiring premature and simplistic, as the used technique was applied to a small part of the brain. Many skeptics believe that in other parts of the brain, axons are connected in different ways apart from the rectangular one.
Scientists Create a 3D Map of the Brain’s Neural Structure
Scientists at Harvard University were able to explore the interior of the brain using new, hi-tech imaging methods. As a result, they created a remarkably detailed 3D map of the brain.
With the help of MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), which provides three-dimensional color images, experts now can have the first real image of one hundred billion brain cells, as well as of their modus operandi.
This could not only shed new light on how the human brain works but also find treatment for many neurological disorders.
“Over the years, we have been studying the brain with the help of conventional imaging methods. They could not provide a real image of it. We could see only a shadow of its surface“, says professor Jan Wedeen.
The scientist referred to the new method of using three different colors to mark neurons before identifying the connections between them – a process that would take hundreds of thousands of years to complete using traditional methods.
“The human brain is the most complex object in the universe. It keeps our memories and fears, and processing information from the environment allows us to see, hear, and feel. There is a whole range of disorders attributed to incorrect connections between neurons, but we do not have the means to detect them“, says Jeff Lichtman.
He was the one who developed the new method of mapping the brain’s neural structure, which could lead to the creation of a full three-dimensional map of the brain in the future.
Learn more about this amazing scientific development in the video below:
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