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 publishedÂ 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 …Â 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 StÂ 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 activityÂ 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”.Â
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.Â
“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 versusÂ 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 …Â 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,” saidÂ 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”.
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
Three decades 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 in Santa Barbara CA, 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 actually can think for themselves.”
The advent of the www and smartphones 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 … 24/7/365.
Early examples of brain/screen-driven cognocracies in evolution are Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, Weibo, Google, eBay, YouTube, Youku, WordPress and SOT.
It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.
– Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela Rules
In the resolution A/RES/70/175, the General Assembly decided to extend the scope of Nelson Mandela International Day, observed each year on 18 July, to be also utilized in order to promote humane conditions of imprisonment; to raise awareness about prisoners being a continuous part of society; to value the work of prison staff as a social service of particular importance.
A/RES/70/175 not only adopted the revised United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, but also approved that they should be known as the “Nelson Mandela Rules” in order to honour the legacy of the late President of South Africa, who spent 27 years in prison in the course of his struggle referred to above.
PRODUCTIVITY IS MEASURED BY GOVERNMENTS and companies, but it is only part of the picture. A return on payroll, or ROP, is what leaders should be delivering to their constituents and shareholders, respectively.
So says Dr. Michael Hewitt-Gleeson, founder of the ‘School of Thinking‘ and prolific author on creative and lateral thinking. In this Insight, Michael discusses how x10 Thinking can assist in growing value, by improving the capability of the existing workforce to make the right management decisions more often.
Since it takes three years for a baby’s brain to become wired up, you can take your birthdate, add three years, and that’s what model is your brain.
In the first three years a child’s brain has up to twice as many synapses as it will have in adulthood. But they are still being wired up. After three years we can say that is the model brain we will have for our life. A degree of brain plasticity means that we can add accessories and upgrades through training and experience, but our wired brain at 3 is the one we will have for life.