My Tech notes: The Brain Unmasked
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Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Brain Unmasked

New imaging technologies reveal the intricate architecture of the brain, creating a blueprint of its connectivity.

Diffusion spectrum imaging (DSI) is one of these twists. It uses magnetic resonance signals to track the movement of water molecules in the brain: water diffuses along the length of neural wires, called axons. Scientists can use these diffusion measurements to map the wires, creating a detailed blueprint of the brain's connectivity.

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On the next page is an animation of the wiring of a marmoset monkey.

The marmoset brain, shown above, is about the size of a plum. By scanning a dissected brain for 24 hours, scientists were able to generate a map with a spatial resolution of 400 microns. "The image quality and resolution are much higher than we can obtain in a living subject," says Wedeen.

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