Researches in the US have released the most detailed map of the human brain

This image from an fMRI scan shows areas connected to three senses: hearing (red), touch (green) and vision (blue). The ...This image from an fMRI scan shows areas connected to three senses: hearing (red), touch (green) and vision (blue). The light and dark areas indicate opposing cognitive systems.

In a study published online in Nature, a team of researchers more than doubled the number of distinct areas known in the human cortex, from 83 to 180. This new map of the brain combines data from four different imaging technologies to essentially bring high-definition to brain scanning for the first time.

The immediate implications, say those familiar with the results, include the possibility of identifying biological markers for a host of neurological diseases and mental illnesses, and the new knowledge may aid neurosurgeons who need to know exactly what sort of tissue they are operating on.

“We may really have within our grasp a fairly straight-forward, non-invasive technique … of using brain imaging as a biomarker at an individual level,” said Greg Farber, director of the Office of Technology Development and Co-ordination at the National Institute of Mental Health, who was not involved in the study.

“It’s like taking an X-ray of a broken arm: it doesn’t take a genius to see where the break is. But in brain imaging we haven’t had anything that works at all for mental illness, substance abuse, ageing.”

An international team led by Matthew Glasser and David Van Essen at Washington University in St Louis scanned the brains of 1200 young adults using four techniques: magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, which reveals the structure of the brain; functional MRI, or fMRI, which registers brain activity when the subjects were resting; task-based fMRI, which registers activity while the subjects were engaged in mental exercises; and diffusion imaging, which reveals the paths of neurons and shows how the brain is “wired”. 

By aligning the brain areas in those 1200 subjects using the combined scanning protocol, the researchers achieved an extraordinary degree of precision. The work was funded by the National Institutes of Health as part of the Human “Connectome” Project, referring to the connections within the brain.

Brain scan showing the pattern of brain activation in the left hemisphere when listening to stories while in a scanner. Brain scan showing the pattern of brain activation in the left hemisphere when listening to stories while in a scanner. 

“If things aren’t aligned, the features will be blurry,” said Glasser, who likened the difference between the old and new cortical maps to the difference between observing the night sky with a ground telescope versus one in space.

“Stars twinkle because of turbulence in the universe,” he said, “but if you put a telescope in space, there’s no atmosphere so you don’t have that blurring. If you’re not aligned, it’s like twinkling … If they are, you just get a much sharper image.”

The magnitude of the breakthrough can be measured against how long it took to get there. The cortical map used most frequently today by both researchers and clinicians is essentially the same one developed more than 100 years ago by anatomist Korbinian Brodmann. The German scientist delineated almost 50 basic brain regions, several of which bear his name. In the decades between then and now, the number increased only incrementally to 83.

Glasser and Van Essen’s team have developed an algorithm that will now make their data collection protocol available to researchers and clinicians around the world.

“These are discrete areas that have unique fingerprints,” said Glasser, “meaning anybody who gets an MRI scan [the doctor or researcher] will be able to find the same cortical areas.”

Accuracy was critically dependent on finding a new method of comparing brains. Up until now, that method was largely dependent on comparing the complex folding patterns in grey matter.

“But every person’s brain is folded differently,” Van Essen said. “You can’t align [brains] by relying on a particular fold.”

Instead of comparing folds, the team relied on measures that included not just cortical topography, but thickness, white matter content and activity.

“Being able to discriminate differences, say, in location and size as well as connectivity,” Glasser said, “means investigators will know if we’re talking about the same thing, as opposed to a neighbouring area.”

Both researchers cautioned that there remains much to be learnt, primarily understanding the functioning of these new brain regions. One of the newly identified areas, called 55-B, is in the frontal cortex, Van Essen said, and is “very distinctive in language-related tasks, in contrast to neighbouring areas of eye movement control. It’s part of a language network that includes much better studied regions in the frontal lobe,” including both Broca’s area, known for more than a century to be involved in speech production, and Wernicke’s area, which is involved in understanding language.

“So what we’ve done is add a new area, 550B, to the language network that had been overlooked because it was small and essentially blurred out in previous maps,” Van Essen said.

This recent breakthrough also changes the game at a more fundamental level by introducing uniformity in a discipline that sorely needs it.

“Up until now people who were doing MRI imaging tended to be a sort of a cottage industry,” Farber said. “There were a lot of different ways to collect similar data and all were a little different because there was no clear gold standard.”

Farber says neuroscientists are “paying attention.”

“With things widely available we’re seeing the research community really settle on this as the preferred method of data collection. And now their data will also be consistent.”

Glasser calls this new mapping technique version 1.0, meaning there are many refinements still to come, but for Farber at least, even version 1.0 “goes to show how powerful this may end up being”.

Washington Post

A thinker is a sovereign individual who consciously values the natural rights of thinkers. The School of Thinking supports the natural rights of thinkers. Here are ten thinkers rights which are supported by the School of Thinking.

A Universal Declaration of Thinkers Rights

1. As thinkers, we have the right to use thinking in a quiet and confident manner.
2. As thinkers, we have the right to have pride in our thinking skill.
3. As thinkers, we have the right to use that skill and to consider a “thinking reaction” rather than a reaction based on emotion or experience alone. The thinking might make use of experience and emotion, but these would be part of the thinking instead of controlling it.
4. A thinker has the right to escape from current views of situations and to search for much better views of situations.
5. A thinker has the universal right to be wrong.
6. A thinker does not have to defend a point of view at all costs. There is the right to see other points of view and the right to design a much better decision.
7. A thinker has the right to acquire wisdom or to seek it out wherever it may be found. Wisdom is quite distinct from the sort of cleverness that is taught in school. Cleverness may be useful for dealing with set puzzles or defending local truths but wisdom is required for designing a safer future.
8. A thinker has the right to get on with his or her own work and to get along with other thinkers and if things go wrong a thinker has the right to think things through and to fix them without creating a fuss.
9. A thinker has the right to spell out the factors involved in a situation and also the reasons behind a decision.
10. Above all, a thinker has the right to be asked to think about something, to focus thinking in a deliberate manner upon any subject. Thinking can be used as a tool by the thinker at will. The use of this tool can be enjoyable whatever the outcome. This applied thinking is practical–the sort of thinking that is required to get things done.
- Adapted from the Learn-To-Think Coursebook and Instructors Manual
© 1982 Michael Hewitt-Gleeson and Edward de Bono, Capra New USA.

Thirty years ago I coined the term cognocracy to mean ‘a society of individuals who think for themselves’. I did this to anticipate the coming social revolution empowered by technology and individual thinking.

In an interview for Reason Magazine (October 1982) with Patrick Cox I explained what I meant by cognocracy:

“as communications technology improves and people acquire the tools to think for themselves, systems such as democracy, socialism, and communism–where a few do the thinking for the many, who are, if anything, asked simply to vote on other people’s ideas–will be replaced by ‘cognocracies’, connected societies of individuals who think for themselves.”

The advent of the www has made it possible to directly link technology to global brainpower. This is accelerating a move away from the slow and traditional ‘follow-the-leader’ democracies towards fast opt-in/opt-out cognocracies. These cognocracies are open to anyone, anywhere, anytime … 24/7. Early examples of cognocracies in evolution can be seen at Wikipedia, Facebook, Google, eBay, YouTube, WordPress and SOT.

In January 2007 TIME Magazine awarded it’s Man of the Year to YOU.

Watch this space!

200 years ago Napoleon’s master, Prince Talleyrand, said, “There is someone more intelligent than Voltaire, more powerful than the emperor–and that is the people.”

Crowdthinking is what happens when two heads are better than one. There is a distributed meta-mind. A thinking outside the square. A collective wisdom. The development of the WWW by Sir Tim Berners-Lee has provided a new technology to accelerate the power of crowdthinking.

Crowdthinking is interesting because it produces an emergent higher order of thinking.

Of course, vox populi has been around for a long time and, in Western history, at least since the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans.

Perhaps the modern version was discovered by Dr George Gallup of Princeton who was first to accurately measure the thinking of the crowd. Dr Gallup invented market research and the Gallup Poll which can not only measure the thinking of the crowd but also make accurate predictions.

The recent poll of the Electors of Australia was an example of crowdthinking. The crowd is the boss! Not the PM, the Governor-General nor the Queen. Not even the Canberra Press Gallery. The crowd is the boss of Australia!

The Swiss Referendum System is an example of crowdthinking.

Daily crowdthinking online has been used by the School of Thinking as a training strategy since 1995. For example, Lesson One has over 5000 distributed thoughts from the crowd.

Other SOT projects like the Greater New York Hospitals Association x10 project in 1980 (with over 50,000 hospital employees contributing) was a crowdthinking event.

SOT’s Readers Digest cover story in April 1983 (with over 68 million worldwide readers) was a global crowdthinking event.

In August/September 2016 crowdthinking events are being planned for Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. SOT will publish results in October.

Cancer x10 is a crowdthinking project to help find ten better cures for cancer.
The strategy is to bring to bear the deliberate power of x10 thinking on to the quest for cures.
Every year the SOT Science Symposium will celebrate the top ten cures in the world with the Cancer x10 Prize.
In August 2016 crowdthinking events will be held in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. The results will be published by SOT in October.

Applications can be made here …