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Spectacular Brain Images Reveal Surprisingly Simple Structure
Posted: Friday, March 30, 2012 1:28 PM
Joined: 12/6/2011
Posts: 3326

From Alzheimer's Daily News:

(Source: LiveScience) - Stunning new visuals of the brain reveal a deceptively simple pattern of organization in the wiring of this complex organ.

Instead of nerve fibers traveling willy-nilly through the brain like spaghetti, the new portraits reveal two-dimensional sheets of parallel fibers crisscrossing other sheets at right angles in a grid-like structure that folds and contorts with the convolutions of the brain. This same pattern appears in the brains of humans, rhesus monkeys, owl monkeys, marmosets and galagos, researchers reported.

Using diffusion spectrum magnetic resonance imaging, Wedeen traced the movement of water molecules along the intersections of brain fibers (the cellular projections that form the brain's communication network), tracking the orientation of each fiber at each crossing.

"What emerged was astonishing," Wedeen said. "What emerged was that the set of fibers that crossed a given fiber, invariably - and that's a really strong invariably - look like mutually parallel fibers all coming in like the teeth of a comb and crossing it in one direction."

Understanding the structure of a typical brain would ultimately help scientists comprehend what happens when brain development goes wrong, as in Alzheimer's or mental illness.

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