An international team of researchers has created the first complete high- resolution map of how millions of neural fibers in the human cerebral cortex - the outer layer of the brain responsible for higher level thinking - connect and communicate. Their groundbreaking work identified a single network core, or hub, that may be key to the workings of both hemispheres of the brain.
The work by the researchers from Indiana University, University of Lausanne, Switzerland, Ecole Polytechnique FÃ©dÃ©rale de Lausanne, Switzerland, and Harvard Medical School marks a major step in understanding the most complicated and mysterious organ in the human body. It not only provides a comprehensive map of brain connections (the brain "connectome"), but also describes a novel application of a non-invasive technique that can be used by other scientists to continue mapping the trillions of neural connections in the brain at even greater resolution, which is becoming a new field of science termed "connectomics."
Until now, scientists have mostly used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology to measure brain activity - locating which parts of the brain become active during perception or cognition - but there has been little understanding of the role of the underlying anatomy in generating this activity. What is known of neural fiber connections and pathways has largely been learned from animal studies, and so far, no complete map of brain connections in the human brain exists.