Take a tour inside your brain

It may be mind-boggling, but in the 21st century we are still discovering our way around the brain.

Our hearts, digestive systems, livers, kidneys – these are all well-trod ground. But the wrinkles and folds of our brain – this is still terra incognita.

As neuroscientists, we are at the forefront of discovering what’s happening in the brain, and a big part of our work is mapping unchartered cerebral territory. Neuroscience, no less than geography, needs accurate maps and coordinate systems to study the brain and its function.

Neuroscience Research Australia’s Prof George Paxinos and his team of brain cartographers are the international leaders in this voyage of discovery.

“Neuroscience has the allure of discovering the cause and treatment of neurologic and psychiatric diseases,” says Prof Paxinos. “We’re constructing brain maps to guide those who study and treat brain disease.”

Instead of superimposing forest cover, railway lines and population data on a map of Australia, Prof Paxinos and his team superimpose types of neurons, types of chemicals, connections and functions.

The team’s latest creation is a set of 3D rotatable maps of the rat and mouse brain, based on paper atlases published by Prof Paxinos and his colleague Prof Charles Watson over the past 30 years.

You can take a tour inside a brain using these 3D maps at BrainNavigator.

Prof Paxinos is the most prolific brain cartographer in history, having published 42 books, and his brain maps are used in many ways.

“As a tide that lifts all boats, our work is of assistance to most people in neuroscience,” he says.

“For example, some of our maps of the human brain are used in operating theatres when neurosurgeons implants electrodes for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.”