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Topographic map MRI of the human brain.

What Can Mapping the Whole Brain Tell Us About Ourselves?

Researchers attempting to map the brain must contend with massive complexity at every level, as a report in Nature shows

The worm and fly brains have been mapped. The mouse brain has, in part, been mapped. But the human brain offers the real challenge for the researchers working around the clock. Our brains are not just more complex; they are more complex on a number of dimensions: To truly understand how the brain works, neuroscientists also need to know how each of the roughly 1,000 types of cell thought to exist in the brain speak to each other in their different electrical dialects. With that kind of complete, finely contoured map, they could really begin to explain the networks that drive how we think and behave. Alison Abbott, “How the world’s biggest brain maps could transform neuroscience” at Nature (October…

Closeup of housefly

Human, Mouse, and Fly Brains All Use the Same Basic Mechanisms

The study of brains in recent decades has yielded a very different picture from the patterns we might have expected

With differing outcomes, of course: A new study led by researchers from King’s College London has shown that humans, mice and flies share the same fundamental genetic mechanisms that regulate the formation and function of brain areas involved in attention and movement control. News Centre, “Humans and flies employ very similar mechanisms for brain development and function” at King’s College London (August 3, 2020) We might have expected a gradual increase in size and complexity, corresponding with ability, leading up to the human brain. But we have learned from recent research that lemurs, with brains 1/200 the size of chimps’, pass same IQ test (the Primate Cognition Test Battery). Human intellectual abilities are orders of magnitude greater than that of…