Neuroscientists call these high-activity networks “proto-cortical networks”. In our new book, Get to Know the Brain: Everyday Neuroscience and How We Can Live Better, I wanted to take a more focused look at the mapping problem, “how to” drawing on a wealth of neuroimaging studies and experimental data to help the public understand the underlying brain networks that are key to good living.
Our approach has two parts. First, we create a map of the neural circuits connecting and using the various areas of the brain, as well as the neural maps that account for the voice, perception, taste, sight, and movement that each of us uses every day.
Second, we develop tools to create engaging maps. Mapping is an important skill, to be sure. But we also want to encourage people to fully use the tools. To that end, we developed 20 Million Easy Steps, a set of 20 animations that explain how we can use the brain maps in everyday life to identify healthy brain regions and see which, as well as where, the healthy regions are located in our heads.
Not only does mapping help you become aware of these regions; it also lets you place them at home. You can use our guided travel guide on How to Map a Fly Brain to travel through your brain using language like “neurodomesticate” and “creativeszach”, and to identify links between related areas of your brain.
Building on the positive relationship between popular science writing and the scientific community, we started thinking about travel before we actually created this book. Art and storytelling touch our brains, and while we often just brush up on grammar and terminology, science publishing houses are among the most excited to see creativity and storytelling woven into science books. This led us to the birth of the tour, a series of Skype chats with neuroscientists from around the world, each presenting their findings, and inviting the audience to explore these findings on their own. After all, there are 1,700 brain science journals and authors around the world. The response to these interactive tours has been overwhelmingly positive. Even so, in the wake of events like the Scripps Research Institute’s plan to move its European research center to San Diego, it is tempting to question the importance of research that we can see, feel, and talk about. But neuroscience is the most exciting and rapidly evolving field in biomedical research right now, it is accelerating, and scientists are continually discovering new insights – some of which can be easily appreciated through maps or drawings. Mapping provides basic information about what our brains look like, helps us understand how these brains work and even help us learn from them. We hope to allow the public to become more knowledgeable and empowered in the face of these findings.