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The Map that Never Ends

Ever looked at a map, and the street you’re standing on isn’t there? Time for an update! Until recently, neu- roscientists relied on a 100-year-old brain map. Now researchers at Wash- ington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, have published a much more detailed map of the cerebral cortex, the outermost layer responsible for sense perception, attention, language, tool use, and abstract thinking.

The new map emerged from the Human Connectome Project, a five- year effort to map the brains of 1,200 young adults using MRIs. While the previous map showed 50 regions,
the new map presents 180, based on physical differences, functional dif- ferences (e.g., differing responses to a stimulus), and connectivity to other regions. On the surface, regions look identical, so the brain map “is more akin to a map showing state borders than topographic features; the most important divisions are invisible from the sky but extremely important all the same,” says the university’s Tamara Bhandari.

According to lead author Mat- thew Glasser, “In the past, it was not always clear when the results from

two separate neuroimaging studies referred to the same area.” It is hoped that the new, more precise map, together…