This is my brain.
I am excited this morning, because I have finally begun to get to grips with Freesurfer a package for processing brain imaging data created by the Martinos Center. Freesurfer is a very powerful program which allows you to extract a very precise brain surface from an anatomical image. I rendered the picture above using the surface data for my brain, and a 3D animation program called Blender. Freesurfer allows you to project your brain imaging data onto this realistic surface. This is important because a lot of the interesting processes take place on the outer surface (cortex) which, as you can see, is scrunched up.
Brain imaging experiments help us figure out what different parts of the brain do (this is called functional imaging). From these experiments and from research with patients with brain injury we know that different parts of the human brain do different things. We do not know exactly what these functions are, or the best way to describe them, but they often seem to be laid out systematically on the cortex – if we could understand the system, we would be able to develop theories about what each part should do based on where it is. The convolutions make it possible to squeeze more cortex into the limited space of our skulls, but they also mean that it is hard to see the real pattern. Freesurfer lets you inflate the brain’s surface, smoothing out all the crinkles, which makes the pattern much clearer.
I am looking forward to doing this more and more with my own experimental results, but right now I am still excited just to be able to make such a nice picture of my own brain.