Google Earth: Brain Edition

Elaina Weber, Features Editor

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Let’s say you are going to a friend’s house for the first time.  You open your web browser, click your trusty Google Maps app, and type in the address.  In a split second, a piece of the world that was unknown to you reveals itself.  To get a feel of the location’s surroundings, you zoom in to see the cross streets and count the turns you will have to make.

If you are curious enough, you might click on the “Satellite” button to see how many houses down the lane your friend lives.  In doing so, you realize all the houses in the area look exactly alike from the top.

So you dig deeper.  You click on the “Street View” button, and instantly, you can see the face of the house before you even arrive.  And all of this happens in a matter of seconds.

But have you ever thought about the resources and time that went into creating Google Maps?  Now, imagine doing this all over again, but with the brain.

It’s happening.

A team of neuroscientists are slicing, scanning, and mapping the human brain to make it available for scientific use.  The feat makes Google Maps look relatively simple.

“The brain is incredibly complex,” Dr. Allan Jones wrote for CNN.com, “with about 86 billion nerve cells, called neurons, forming about 100 trillion connections, all working in concert to drive our thoughts, emotions, reactions and interactions with the world around us.”

Sebastian Seung is an MIT neuroscientist also working on the project.

“The brain is so complex, so do we have a prayer of figuring it out?” Seung said, “I would argue the fundamental limitation has been technological so far. But I would say that once we can observe what’s happening in the brain at the appropriate resolution then we have a chance.”

Interested in learning the ins and outs of the new system? Check out Dr. Allan Jones’ video on the map of the brain.


Video Credit: CNN.com

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