IMAGES: Cerebral Surveying

Science  07 Oct 2005:
Vol. 310, Issue 5745, pp. 27
DOI: 10.1126/science.310.5745.27a

All human brains look pretty much alike in a jar of formaldehyde, but on closer inspection each person's sports a unique pattern of wrinkles and crevices. That's good news for individualists and bad news for neuroscientists striving to pin down what areas manage specific functions. The new brain atlas PALS, created by neurobiologist David Van Essen of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, can help researchers get a handle on this geographical variability. Unlike previous atlases that relied on scans of one brain, PALS maps the contours of the cerebral cortex—which governs “higher functions” such as planning and problem solving—by averaging magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of 12 people. You can summon 17 views of the brain's surface, such as a map showing which areas vary the most and the least among individuals. Controls let you rotate the images and view them from different angles. You can also superimpose data such as functional MRI measurements of activity. PALS is part of the neuroimaging database SumsDB that features similar atlases for the human cerebellum and for macaque, rat, and mouse brains.

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