Glasser looked for areas in the cerebral cortex where he saw significant changes in two or more properties, and used these to delineate borders on the map. “If you crawl along the cortical surface, at some point you are going to get to a location where the properties start changing, and where multiple independent properties change in the same place,” he says.

The technique confirmed the existence of 83 previously reported brain areas and identified 97 new ones. Scientists tested their map by looking for these regions in the brains of 210 additional people. They found that the map was accurate, but that the size of the areas in it varied from person to person. These differences may reveal new insights into individual variability in cognitive ability and disease risk.

Limited view

“While the focus of this work was on creating a beautiful, reliable, average brain template, it really opens up the possibility to further explore the unique intersection of individual talents with intellectual and creative abilities — the things that make us uniquely human,” says Rex Jung, a neuropsychologist at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

But the map is limited in some important ways. For one, it reveals little about the biochemical underpinnings of the brain — or about the activity of single neurons or small groups. “It is analogous to having a fantastic Google Earth map of your neighbourhood, down to your individual back yard,” says Jung. “Yet, you cannot really see how your neighbours are moving around, where they are going or what sort of jobs they have.”

“We’re thinking of this as version 1.0,” says Glasser. “That doesn’t mean it’s the final version, but it’s a far better map than the ones we’ve had before.”


읽어봐야할 논문: Glasser, M. F. et al. Nature (2016).