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article imageFirst 'wired' map of the brain produced

By Tim Sandle     Jul 3, 2017 in Science
Cardiff - If the brain is a giant and powerful computer, then the network of neurons that inter-space the grey and white matter can be thought of as a wiring system.
What does this interconnection of wires look like? Cardiff University has produced the first map.
The researchers from Wales have produced the world's first detailed scan of the brain's internal wiring. This has been revealed using technology linking to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners and it has revealed the fibers that carry all the brain's thought processes. The primary technology used was the 7 Tesla scanner (manufactured by Siemens). The device weighs 18 tons and it is wrapped around with giant magnets. The unit of strength of a magnetic field is a Tesla (T), which accounts for the scanner being named after the Serbian-American pioneer Nikola Tesla. The scanner's field strength is 7T; which is 140,000 times stronger than the magnetic field of planet Earth itself.
The device uses a very strong magnetic field, generated by a superconducting magnet, together with a radio antenna to "listen" to the electrical signals produced by the hydrogen nuclei of molecules in the body.
The output from the scanner hows fibers in white matter called axons (the brain's wiring). An axon is a long, slender projection of a nerve cell (neuron), which conducts electrical impulses away from the neuron's cell body. Axonsfunction to carry billions of electrical signals. The scan can scan show the direction of the messaging as well as the density of the brain's wiring. The device was recently tested out by Fergus Walsh for the BBC.
The Cardiff University project, based at Cardiff University's Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC), has received support from scientists based in Nottingham, Cambridge, Stockport, London (U.K.) and Ontario.
The primary aim of the research is to aid medical understanding of different neurological disorders (insights into the causes of neurological and psychiatric conditions such as dementia, schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis). The pattern may also aid surgeons, helping to negate the need for as many invasive biopsies. The new scans are sophisticated enough to show axonal density and this level of detail could help medics to understand how brain pathways affect motor and cognitive pathways.
In addition the researchers are looking into whether new scanning methods which map the wiring of the brain could provide a valuable new tool to predict people at risk of schizophrenia.
More about Brain, Neurons, neurones, Wired, Map
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