Human Brain Mapping
The human brain is a remarkable organ. In it, billions of neurons and support cells interact in a way that allows an individual to learn, store memories and engage in the process of reasoning. This organ has intrigued scientists for decades, and human brain mapping was created to explain its mysteries.
In human brain mapping, scientists explore the localization of function in the human brain. Different parts of the human brain allow individuals to see, hear, create and apply logic. With human brain mapping, these different areas are examined and catalogued in an effort to provide a complete understanding of all of the brain's lobes, regions, neuron bundles and specialized centers. With a better understanding of the human brain, scientists will also know the exact causes of brain diseases such as mental illness.
TOOLS OF HUMAN BRAIN MAPPING
Human brain mapping involves the use of many tools to take images of the human brain, extrapolate data from the images, and use this data to analyze the development of the human brain.
To take images of the human brain for human brain mapping, scientists use:
Diffusion tensor MRI images to follow the movement of water in the brain and reveal neuron tracts
Computer axial tomography (CAT) scans to scan the human brain from various angles and reveal any abnormalities in its structure
Magnetic resonance imaging to create images based on the water in a brain
Human brain mapping also requires an examination of brain activity. The following tools are used in this process:
Positron emission tomography (PET), which creates images based on the radioactive markers found in the human brain
Pharmacological functional MRIs show how the brain's activity is affected after drugs are administered to a subject
Functional MRIs show how various tasks affect the activity of the human brain
Transcranial magnetic stimulation procedures use noninvasive techniques to trigger certain behaviors in an individual
WHY BOTHER WITH HUMAN BRAIN MAPPING?
Human brain mapping has many potential benefits. With the complete knowledge of the human brain that human brain mapping aims for, scientists may soon understand how humans learn and adapt over the course of their lives. They may also be able to identify the causes of mental disorders such as anxiety, panic, depression, eating disorders, and even schizophrenia.
In the medical field, human brain mapping can make brain surgeries safer, as surgeons will know exactly which areas of the brain to cut out and which areas to leave in during an operation. Human brain mapping can also be used to diagnose a number of neurodegenerative diseases by examining the levels of certain brain chemicals in an individual. The process of human brain mapping also seeks to explain how factors such as age, drug use and diseases result in decreased brain volume.
One day, human brain mapping may lead to a definitive diagram of the human brain. Each and every one of the brain's billions of neurons and their connections will be charted in extreme detail, as well as each function of the brain.