Have you ever got lost trying to navigate a dense city with a hopelessly vague map? Sometimes that’s what it’s like trying to unpick the complexity of the human brain. For example, transcranial magnetic stimulation is a treatment used for various mental illnesses such as depression and Alzheimer’s, but how exactly it works is a mystery. To investigate what the procedure – which involves firing small electric currents at regions of the brain – actually does, researchers looked at brain ‘orientation maps’ before and after the treatment (pictured – the left of each pair is before the procedure, right after). The colours reflect specific neurons’ orientations in response to visual cues, many of which have changed after the procedure. And visual ‘training’ after the treatment contributed to these updated neural ‘maps’, suggesting that post-treatment behaviour could help redirect misguided brain connections. A promising addition to our incomplete map of the brain’s vast complexity.
Written by Anthony Lewis
- Image adapted from work by Vladislav Kozyrev and colleagues
- Optical Imaging Group, Institut für Neuroinformatik, Ruhr University Bochum, Bochum, Germany
- Images originally published under a Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) Attribution
- Published in PNAS, June 2018