What is Brain Mapping? - Test & Techniques

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  • 0:00 What Is Brain Mapping?
  • 0:28 Benefits of Brain Mapping
  • 2:01 Tools for Brain Mapping
  • 3:46 New Brain Mapping Techniques
  • 4:53 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Wouldn't it be awesome if we could create a map of the brain that lets doctors, scientists, and researchers know the different parts and how they work? Turns out we have created one. Complete this lesson to find out what brain mapping is and how it works.

What Is Brain Mapping?

Imagine twenty years ago you wanted to go on a road trip, before GPS technology was invented. You'd rely on a map to navigate from point A to point B, detour around road blocks, visit interesting scenery, and understand the terrain better. Brain mapping is very similar - it's a technique used to show parts of the brain and how they work together. Although this may sound simple, like all things related to the brain, it's a little complex!

Benefits of Brain Mapping

Scientists say the brain is like the internet. Right now, your brain has about as many neurons, or brain cells, as there are internet pages. The difference is, when you click on a link for pictures of cute kittens, the result is predictable and straightforward: you'll be linked to thousands of images of cuddly felines. However, when neurons in the brain link up, thousands of different paths could be created, and not all of them are predictable. So, creating a map of the brain can benefit science for several reasons.

Brain mapping provides a solid understanding of the anatomy of the brain. Although we know more about the brain now than we ever have, it still contains many mysteries. Brain maps have been used to distinguish the different parts of the brain, such as the prefrontal cortex and primary motor cortex. Creating a map of the brain will also help us understand how humans learn. Finding out how our brains take in and process new information could lead to changes in our education system. New advances in brain mapping have shown that the brain is plastic, meaning changeable in this case. We once thought characteristics such as IQ were static, or unchanging, but they're not.

Brain mapping would also help doctors better understand injuries to the brain and other brain-related issues, like epilepsy or autism. It could aid brain surgeons, as well. Some scientists even believe brain mapping could eventually help identify parts of the brain responsible for mental disorders, such as depression, bipolar disorder, and even schizophrenia, and lead to more effective treatments.

Tools for Brain Mapping

Creating a map of the brain helps scientists study the brain and what the various parts of the brain do. For example, they can see what areas are responsible for curiosity or laughter. Understanding what jobs these different regions of the brain perform is called localization of function.

One way scientists map the brain is to hook a subject up to a machine and watch as he or she performs different tasks. For example, they may ask him or her to sing a song. Scientists can get pretty specific when looking at localization of function; they may even notice different parts of the brain lighting up when the subject sings a lullaby compared to a rock song.

Scientists use several tools and techniques to create brain maps, including:

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