The human brain behaves in surprising ways that could challenge and confound maps and explanations if, however exhaustive, they are too simple:
The worm and fly brains have been mapped. The mouse brain has, in part, been mapped. But the human brain offers the real challenge for the researchers working around the clock. It’s nut just more complex; it is more complex on a number of dimensions:News, “What can mapping the whole brain tell us about ourselves?What can mapping the whole brain tell us about ourselves?” at Mind Matters News
The worm and fly brains have been mapped. The mouse brain has, in part, been mapped. But the human brain offers the real challenge for the researchers working around the clock. It’s nut just more complex; it is more complex on a number of dimensions:
To truly understand how the brain works, neuroscientists also need to know how each of the roughly 1,000 types of cell thought to exist in the brain speak to each other in their different electrical dialects. With that kind of complete, finely contoured map, they could really begin to explain the networks that drive how we think and behave.Alison Abbott, “How the world’s biggest brain maps could transform neuroscience” at Nature (October 6, 2021)
We hear about these new types of cells (there is even a census in the works) as they are identified. The hope is that a complete map will enable new therapies for cognitive disorders like Alzheimer. But the brain mapping projects, begun nearly a decade ago, are still in the early stages:
The consortium [BRAIN Initiative Cell Census Network (BICCN)] has mapped the cell types in around 1% of the mouse brain, and has some preliminary data on primate brains, including humans. It plans to complete the whole mouse brain by 2023. The maps already hint at some small differences between species that could help to explain our susceptibility to some human-specific conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.Alison Abbott, “How the world’s biggest brain maps could transform neuroscience” at Nature (October 6, 2021)
[ … ]
➤ The brain is very interconnected and things may not be in one place or a place we expect. Most parts of the brain are involved in processing signals. Mouse studies found brain waves that can bypass synapses and gaps and even communicate with severed nerves. Our conscious visual perception lies outside our visual field. And memories can drift from neuron to neuron.
➤ Damaged or deficient brains can work well in ways that are just baffling at present. People with brains that have been split in half to control epilepsy can function normally. Some people think and speak with only half a brain or even less.
The proposed whole brain map will shed light on many of these situations. If it doesn’t shed light on some of them, we are probably looking at a new frontier.
Takehome: Researchers attempting to map the brain must contend with massive complexity at every level, as a report in Nature shows.
You may also wish to read: Study: The human brain and the universe are remarkably similar. It looks as though the universe is not random but rather patterned in the way it unfolds. When an astrophysicist and a neurosurgeon compared notes, they were surprised by the way the brain follows the same pattern as the universe.