Rewriting Life

Images of the Author's Brain

Tracking and understanding the complex connections within the brain may finally reveal the neural secret of cognitive ability.

Oct 20, 2009
Brain map: Software called BrainLab analyzes data collected during a specialized MRI scan of the author’s brain in order to create a neural wiring map. The first two images (here and next page) show cross-sections.
Specific subsets of wires are highlighted (the color indicates the direction of the wiring going through that slice).
The cross-sections are computationally stitched together to create a three-dimensional image.
Plotting diffusion: Water molecules in the brain diffuse along neural wires, allowing scientists to create, essentially, circuit diagrams. First, the most likely directions of diffusion are calculated for each two-cubic-millimeter patch of the brain, generating 3-D shapes for each point, as shown above. Specialized software calculates the path of neural wires on the basis of these shapes. This method can distinguish overlapping wires, while more conventional imaging cannot.