IMAGES: Virtual Brain Shelf

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Science  06 Jul 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5527, pp. 19
DOI: 10.1126/science.293.5527.19a

Why does a mouse's brain have smooth hemispheres whereas an elephant's are wrinkled? Brain experts can make educated guesses—maybe the extra neurons handle sensory input from the elephant's dexterous trunk—but they can't answer definitively, says neurophysiologist Wally Welker of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Hoping to stimulate research into differences in brain anatomy is Comparative Mammalian Brain Collections, run by Welker and colleagues at Michigan State University and the National Museum of Health and Medicine.

Instead of row after row of jars, this online brain museum stocks images of whole brains of more than 100 mammalian species—from humans to dolphins to tree shrews—and stained thin sections for 15 species. Backgrounders cover topics such as brain nomenclature and how to infer the brain structure of extinct animals from impressions inside fossil skulls. Zoologists, psychologists, and neuroanatomists are the target audiences, but many teachers and students also use the site, Welker says.

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