Rewriting Life

The Brain Unveiled

A new imaging method offers a spectacular view of neural structures.

A new imaging method that offers an unprece­dented view of ­complex neural structures could help explain the workings of the brain and shed light on neurological diseases.

Interactive Tools

The three tools below and on the next two pages show data gathered in different ways from a living human volunteer. In each image, the brain is viewed from the back at a three-quarter profile, with the volunteer’s eyes pointed back and toward the right.

Multimedia

In this interactive tool, only the fibers that intersect a given vertical plane are shown in each still image. Visualizing only a subset of the brain’s densely packed neural fibers allows individual networks to be studied in greater detail. Users can either click on the arrow in the center of the image to view a movie that moves the plane through the brain from left to right, or they can move manually through the brain using the cursor below. Neurosurgeons sometimes use this type of visualization when searching for signs of a tumor.

Just as most roads in the United States are local streets rather than interstate highways, most connections in the brain are short range. In this interactive tool, fibers are removed based on their length. As the cursor moves right, progressively longer fibers are subtracted from the visualization.

The red and orange fibers in the lower left quadrant of the image, which begin to disappear when the cursor is at its midpoint, are part of the brain’s sensory association pathways, integrating visual auditory information, for example. The last fibers to remain–the blue C-shaped fibers running horizontally across the middle of the image–are part of the cingulum bundle, which runs from the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in planning and higher cognitive function, to the parietal cortex, which is mainly involved in synthesizing sensory information.

This visualization begins with a view of the brain’s right hemisphere, then rotates clockwise. A head-on view is shown about one-fifth of the way through. This image shows only a subset of fibers that intersect a vertical plane in the left hemisphere of the brain. Because most connections in the brain are short range, the left hemisphere appears more densely packed than the right; few fibers travel from their origins in the left hemisphere to the right.

Become an MIT Technology Review Insider for in-depth analysis and unparalleled perspective.

Subscribe today

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Rewriting Life

Reprogramming our bodies to make us healthier.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Premium {! insider.prices.premium !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Our award winning magazine, unlimited access to our story archive, special discounts to MIT Technology Review Events, and exclusive content.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

    First Look. Exclusive early access to stories.

    Insider Conversations. Listen in as our editors talk to innovators from around the world.

  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus ad-free web experience, select discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning magazine and daily delivery of The Download, our newsletter of what’s important in technology and innovation.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.