Map of Brain Pathways Reveals Remarkably Simple, Gridlike Structure
There are almost zero diagonals, nor single neurons that stray from the neuronal highways.
The human brain is just one big grid of neurons — a lot like the streets of Manhattan, minus Broadway, and then projected into three dimensions.
This new imagery comes from a souped-up MRI scanner that uses diffusion spectrum imaging to detect the movement of water molecules within axons (the long connections made by neurons). The brain has always been very difficult to image because of the wrinkly nature of the cerebral cortex that surrounds the brain — but this new MRI scanner finally has the ability to peer through the folds.
Members of the Human Connectome Project first analyzed monkey brains — which are very similar to human brains — and then used their findings to tweak the MRI scanner to improve its imaging of human brains.
A connectome is a complete map of the connections and pathways in a brain — basically, the neuronal version of your DNA genome.