A New Brain Map Discovers 97 New Compartments

First Posted: Jul 22, 2016 04:31 AM EDT

Cerebral cortex is the part of the brain responsible for higher cognitive functions like abstract thought, language and memory. Neuroscientists recently came up with the most detailed map of the cerebral cortex ever based on a variety of brain scans. The map shaped the cortex into 180 different sections, and 97 of those are new.

According to BBC News, the brain's crumpled outer layer is responsible for advanced cognition, perception and movement. It has already been mapped in several different ways for years, but this new effort is a groundbreaking attempt to a more defined, and modern outline for neuroscientists.

Researchers of the study said that the map could help in the study of brain illnesses like autism, schizophrenia, dementia and epilepsy, and also tackle the differences between brains of people with mental conditions and those who are healthy, Yahoo reported.

Neuroscientist Matthew Glasser of Washington University in St. Louis, lead author of the study, explained that the map may also be useful in neurosurgery helping surgeons avoid damaging important brain areas involved in speech or movement.

"The cerebral cortex underlies most of human cognition, providing such functions as speech production and understanding, ability to use tools, ability to make decisions, et cetera," Glasser said. "Indeed, it is responsible for the stuff that makes us human, and the cortex has expanded dramatically in humans relative to our closest living relatives, the apes."

Researchers used a combination of algorithms and human interpretation to study the data from 210 healthy young adults. The team divided the brain into 180 regions according to hemisphere. Eighty-three of the total regions had already been included in the literature, but researchers were able to find 97 new ones.

The Scientist reported that in the process of making the map, Glasser and his team used MRI data from the joint project. The researchers analyzed brain architecture based on the MRI data of cortical myelin content, as well as thickness, cortical function measured by functional MRI scans of participants while completing a number of tasks from listening comprehension to math problems; and functional connectivity and topography, as measured with resting-state fMRI.

"It's particularly important to find places where you have multiple independent measures changing in the same location," Glasser said. "Up until this point, people were looking at only single modalities."

Meanwhile, Washington University neuroscientist David Van Essen said that the generation of this map is considered to be the most accurate and detailed map of human cerebral cortex published to date.

In the past, German neurologist Korbinian Brodmann published the first cerebral cortex map in 1909, and according to Glasser, the new map will not be the last of the subject.

"Think of this as version 1.0 of the brain map. It is very likely that better data or more eyes on the problem will identify improvements, perhaps for a version 2.0 in the future," Glasser said.

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