We have mapped our roads such that we can explore our communities through interactive map softwares, such as Google Maps and Google Earth. Google Map cars are a common sight every few years as Google endeavors to maintain a hyper-accurate account of the roadways in many countries worldwide. We are relatively familiar with the world around us, however, we are significantly less familiar with our brains. The brain is a vastly complex organ of your body, and is the center of the nervous system. Globally, neuroscientists are studying the brain to similarly map the brain. Presently, we are limited in our understanding of the extent of and interaction within the neural networks. Nevertheless, we do have a massive understanding of the brain’s macrostructure and its mechanisms of function. Through the development of advanced imaging softwares in the recent decades, research on the more intricate systems of the brain has intensified. fMRI scans have allowed greater insight on the brain’s “connectome.” This “connectome” comprises the many links to the hundreds of regions in the brain and the billions of neurons. Through computer modeling, we have been able to augment our understanding of the brain and create these amazing (and beautiful) models of brains:
The Human Connectome: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Human_Connectome.png
The Human Connectome Project began in 2009 and has been organized into two consortiums by the National Institute of Health: The Washington University in St. Louis – University Minnesota consortium and the Harvard University/Massachusetts General Hospital – UCLA consortium. The goal is to compile massive amounts of data on the healthy adult brain and map it down to the neuron– just like Google has mapped (nearly) every road in the US. Additionally, the project seeks to facilitate research into brain disorders such as dyslexia, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, and schizophrenia through developing more advanced neuroimaging platforms and creating a wealth of information to study the effects of these neurological disorders and diseases, insofar as how they function and change the interaction of the brain–similar to how you would take use the navigation functions in your GPS.
Similar to the Human Connectome Project endeavor to map the brain, a “citizen-science” platform for brain mapping, Eyewire, seeks to map the brain by providing the fMRI scans of the brain and allowing users to build the 3 dimensional structure of a section of a single neuron. This program is a fun online game that actually contributes to science, in that users can map sections of the brain, and be checked by the computer. This allows for error mitigation, where the computer model may be erroneous, and corrected by the many users mapping the neuron at a time. The link can be found here, as well as below.
The Human Connectome Project and the Eyewire mapping game are both revolutionary research projects studying the amazingly intricate brain neuronal structure and networks, with very promising results in the near future.
Eyewire Project Game: http://www.eyewire.org