The Basic Architecture of the Brain

Dr. Van Wedeen talks about how the brain's cortical areas are arranged like a checkerboard, hierarchic from front to back.

See more of Dr. Van Wedeen's videos here.

So as I made the remark that all brain's have this basic structure-- here's a different modeling of the brain. On the right is Larry Swanson's idea for the flat map nervous system of a rat shaped exactly like a ladder except for the forebrain in which--there's question marks over here. This is the part of the map that you don't know what's going on. Well now we know. It's the same. But this is a large-scale picture in which-- this to me is much more satisfactory-- but, of course, he doesn't know what to do over here. Whereas Olaf and Patrick are all about what to do over here in, not a rat, but an even more complicated brain--ours. But, it's interesting how the simplest things that count as brains are already exhibiting this basic plan and symmetry. And the basic plan is time moves across this thing from nose-to-tail. So these things are temporally organized. These little crawling creatures crawl in a preferred direction. And so it seems that having a brain is a counterpart to having an axis-- having a direction. So this is another picture. This is the grid-like and hierarchical organization of cortical areas in the human and in the monkey. And--you know--it's the same organization. Time--so that which is temporal-- in a worm becomes abstraction in a human. So the structure is still there. It just keeps getting elaborated. It turns into a more abstract and more vast version of itself. But the basic design strategy is recognizable.
Posted on BrainLine March 18, 2013.

Produced by Brian King, Vicky Youcha, and Lara Collins, BrainLine.

About the author: Van Wedeen. MD

Van Wedeen, MD is associate professor in Radiology at Harvard Medical School, assistant neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital, and director of Connectomics at Martinos Center, Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital.

Van Wedeen