Strange Features Our Brains Contain

Welcome Back Brainiacs!!! 😉

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Have you ever contemplated the magnificence of this powerful organ that defines who we are?

While slightly intimidating, in addition to confusing for even the most seasoned scientist to fully comprehend; neuroscience is fun!

  • Upon reading this, you can impress your friends with your newly acquired brainy scientific knowledge.

  Hence, without further ado here are some…

Strange Things Our Brains May Contain

  • WARNING!!! This post may contain some scientific language. No worries, I will walk you through them step by step.

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          Our somatosensory cortex (a specialized brain area crucial to the perception of touch and body sensation) contains a bundle of nerves specifically grouped to respond to a specific body (somatic) area.

This structure actually creates a depiction of our entire bodies; mapped in our brains! Let that sink in before I reveal the next mind-blowing facts:

  • Our brains representation differs from the anatomically correct version one would imagine a person to look like realistically.
  • Here is what a Homunculus looks like in two ways of scientific representation:
  • Firstly, as so
The Homunculus Mapper | Map Your Own Brain in 10 Minutes or Less

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  • Secondly it is depicted here:
(A) The classic Penfield somatosensory homunculus showing the disproportionate representation of the body surface in primary somatosensory cortex, reflecting the innervation density of fast conducting low threshold mechanoreceptors to body parts sub serving discriminative touch e.g. the hands and lips. (B) The proposed affective homunculus, based on the same interpretation re innervation density, but this time of c-tactile afferents, which project to dorsal posterior insular cortex and are inferred to be more densely represented in more proximal body parts e.g. the upper arms and back. 

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  • Fun fact we also have another one in our primary motor cortex that is proportioned for movement, as this area helps facilitate it. In the above representation of our bodies, more cortical space (area on the surface of the brain) is dedicated to our areas that are most sensitive and contain the most sensory nerve receptors (e.g. lips, fingertips, and other regions)
  • The take home message is the more sensitive the area of the body (e.g. lips and fingertips); the larger it is on our cortical area of the brain.
  • Remember the homunculus’s denotative definition differs a bit when applicable to neuroscience (do not attempt to say that five times, fast 😉) 

Our brains are fine-tuned to function like maps in many multifaceted ways. Which is a perfect segue to my next sub-topic. We now know that all of our body’s constituent parts are represented in our brain’s hypothetical atlas (e.g. the homunculus above is considered part of cortical mapping), but there is another map critical to our sight and that is:

  • A Retinotopic Map

The second light strikes the eye images are projected onto our retina; our brain begins a complex procedure called visual transduction.

  • Visual transduction or the process of taking outside stimuli and converting it into a neural relay of signals; it’s the brain’s complex procedure of sensing and perceiving the world around us.

This schematic demonstrates the phenomenon  

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  • Fun Fact! The brain in this instance also has a disproportioned map as in the case of the aforementioned homunculus. The disparity, attributed to the fact that certain areas contain more sight receptors, is called cortical magnification.  

Each of our eyes contain a fovea at the center of the retina (responsible for our ability to focus). The fovea possesses a larger concentration of sensory neurons than any other area responsible for vision in the eye. 

Last but certainty not least, an awesome update on an interesting structure.

  • A Fusiform Gyrus

Let’s explore an area once believed to be responsible only for facial recognition; leading scientists to much debate over the name and purpose (once dubbed FFA or Fusiform face area). Now called the FG for short, I wanted to explain the new discoveries to you.

This brain area was being studied when scientists noticed that it became more active when objects in subjects’ visual field contained a face. However, upon further testing the FG was implicated to have other important functions as well.

Research participants are usually monitored with fMRI imaging, when presented with stimuli to see which area reveals activity when perceiving or preforming tasks. This hypothesis was well accepted until someone noticed activity when a professional was assessing a photograph with subject matter specific to their area of expertise.

Now neuroscientists also recognize the FG as:

  • An expertise area. For example: professional dog breeders would have this area active when assessing pedigrees  
  •  Also, as an area that plays a role in our bias; among other entities such as the orbital frontal cortex or (OFC) for short. For example: the area play’s a role in racial or gender stereotyping or even when discriminating wine selection at a tasting.

Images like these rendered by scientists, help us determine how the things we take in impact our understanding or behavior

Image result for where is the fusiform face area

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  • Fun fact: The brain also has clusters of neuronal cells that fire in response to pictures of houses and other familiar structures named the Parahippocampal Place area or PPA, for short. With all these images collected for many years by various neuroscientists worldwide, we now roughly have a cortical map of our entire brains! For brevity’s sake I was only able to share a few “puzzle pieces” with you.
  • However, if you would like to know more about anything at all, please inform me in the comments below and I will be ecstatic to accommodate you!
  • Don’t forget to subscribe to the newsletter so you can be notified when a new installment is posted

Lastly, this post was inspired by:

Image result for American poet Emily Dickinson  brain.

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I sincerely hope you enjoyed reading this, as much as I had writing it.




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