Nearly 100 New Parts of the Human Brain Have Just Been Mapped

Uh, brain? What aren't you telling me?

Journal Nature

While the word “discovered” might be a little strong, finding out that there are 97 parts of your brain that even scientists didn’t really know about until now is kind of a big deal. The brain is an intricate mass of chemicals and emotion to us, but to your everyday neurosurgeon or researcher, the complexities are so in-depth that they’re still learning all about it.

An all-new “map” of the average human brain has been constructed, and in creating the map, researchers realized that there were many areas they uncovered that had not previously been described. These areas were clearly different from their neighboring parts, because of their unique structure, function, and connectivity. This map has been a long time coming for the neuroscientists that made it (or longed for it), because it helps break down parts of the brain in a logical and digestible format.

The study reveals all of the intricacies of creating the map in the first place. This isn’t the first time that a map of the cerebral cortex has been made: Korbinian Brodmann was one of the first people to notice these differences in 1909, creating his own map based on what he saw as unique areas of the brain. The most widely-publicized map highlights only 52 areas of the brain, covering several individual areas that carry stark differences from the next. But, as technology advanced and scientists were able to get a closer look, something seemed off.

“If you crawl along the cortical surface, at some point you are going to get to a location where the properties start changing, and where multiple independent properties change in the same place,” says Matthew Glasser, who led the team behind the map. Roughly 210 people were tested during the studies, which revealed that while 87 previous areas of the brain had been mapped, there were 97 new areas that, because of their differences, expanded the map. These particular areas vary from person to person in size, but the map held consistently when it came to their locations.

Still, Glasser says that this is simply the latest draft of the map. “That doesn’t mean it’s the final version, but it’s a far better map than the ones we’ve had before.”