WebGL in-browser interactive 3D map of the brain by James Gao:
This viewer shows how information about thousands of object and action categories is represented across human neocortex. The data come from brain activity measurements made using fMRI while a participant watched hours of movie trailers. Computational modeling procedures were used to determine how 1705 distinct object and action categories are represented in the brain.
Try it out here
Topographisch-anatomischer Atlas nach Durchschnitten an gefrornen Cadavern - Wilhelm Braune, 1872
|—||Philip Roth, American Pastoral|
Weaving Neuroscience and Art Together
What’s that? Wooden brains aren’t enough for you? Ok, since you can’t get enough, here’s some amazing knitted brain art. These are real fMRI scans and anatomical studies translated into yarn and woven into rugs!
There’s actually a whole mini-museum for this stuff, appropriately titled “The Museum of Scientifically Accurate Brain Art”. Best “weaving” of science and art since these math-inspired creations of New Mexico artist Donna Loraine Contractor.
The Brain - 1965 poster for Life by Kazumasa Nagai.
Original colour drawing by Korbinian Brodmann, showing cortical areas in the European ground squirrel Spermophilus citellus (MPI Brain Research Archive)
Bourgery, Jean Marc. - Traité complet de l’anatomie de l’homme, par les Drs Bourgery et Claude Bernard et le professeur-dessinateur-anatomiste N.H. Jacob, avec le concours de Ludovic Hirschfeld.
To reflect the ongoing structural changes in the adolescent and twenty-something brain, many journalists and scientists use words and phrases like “unfinished,” “work in progress,” “under construction” and “half-baked.” Such language implies that the brain eventually reaches a kind of ideal state when it is “done.” But there is no final, optimal state. The human brain is not a soufflé that gradually expands over time and finally finishes baking at age 30. Yes, we can identify and label periods of dramatic development—or windows of heightened plasticity—but that should not eclipse the fact that brain changes throughout life.
Whether we can, at this moment in time, meaningfully link this life stage to neuroscience seems a tenuous proposition at best. By itself, brain biology does not dictate who we are. The members of any one age group are not reducible to a few distinguishing structural changes in the brain. Ultimately, the fact that a twenty-something has weaker bridges between various brain regions than someone in their thirties is not hugely important—it’s just one aspect of a far more complex identity.
When I first began to take antidepressants, I understood that doing so meant I had a chemical imbalance in my brain. I knew that, arguably, I should find that comforting—it meant that what I was going through wasn’t my fault—but instead it made me feel out of control. I wanted my feelings to mean something. The idea that my deepest emotions were actually random emanations from my malfunctioning brain didn’t uplift me; it just further demoralized me.
In my 20s, I sought out talk therapy, partly to deal with the questions that using antidepressants raised for me and partly because the effects of the drugs, spectacular in the short term, had waned over time, leaving plenty of real-world problems in their wake. Only then did I begin to notice just how nonrandom my feelings were and how predictably they followed some simple rules of cause and effect.
Looking back, it seems remarkable that I had to work so hard to absorb an elementary lesson: Some things make me feel happy, other things make me feel sad. But for a long time antidepressants were giving me the opposite lesson. If I was suffering because of a glitch in my brain, it didn’t make much difference what I did. For me, antidepressants had promoted a kind of emotional illiteracy. They had prevented me from noticing the reasons that I felt bad when I did and from appreciating the effects of my own choices.
Abandoned Neuroscience Lab
Science is driven by progress and new discoveries, but sometimes reflection is just as important. Urban exploration is the act of visiting places you’re not supposed to go—places that are often derelict and haven’t seen life in years—and it seems fitting to rediscover a place of past discovery to see the memories held amongst the decaying rooms, abandoned apparatus and gathering dust. Sometimes they tell stories, like these photographs of an abandoned Moscow neuroscience laboratory, showing the remains of sophisticated Soviet-era experiments on human and animal brains.
Image Credit: Brusnichka
Greg Dunn’s stunning gold leaf paintings of cells, neurons and other natural wonders are fit for any wall.