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Video: Mapping the Brain’s Interconnect

This remarkable video shows results from a new brain imaging study funded by the National Institutes of Health. Findings suggest a simplifying framework for understanding the brain’s structure, pathways and connectivity.

Far from being just a tangle of wires, the brain’s connections turn out to be more like ribbon cables — folding 2D sheets of parallel neuronal fibers that cross paths at right angles, like the warp and weft of a fabric,” explained Van Wedeen, M.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), A.A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging and the Harvard Medical School. “This grid structure is continuous and consistent at all scales and across humans and other primate species.”

The study was made possible by a new Connectom scanner, which markedly boosts resolving power by magnifying magnetic fields with magnetically stronger copper coils, called gradients. Gradients make it possible to vary the magnetic field and get a precise fix on locations in the brain. The Connectom scanner’s gradients are seven times stronger than those of conventional scanners. Scans that would have previously taken hours – and, thus would have been impractical with living human subjects – can now be performed in minutes.

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