This is your brain on urban planning.
In a new study in Science, researchers looked at the network of fibers that carry signals from one part of the brain to the other. They unocvered a remarkably organized three-dimensional grid. According to study author Van Wedeen, the grid is a little like Manhattan "with streets running in two dimension and then the elevators in the buildings in the third dimension."
Of course the human brain has a lot of folds and curves. So, Wedeen says, you have to imagine Manhattan bent into some odd shapes. But the underlying grid doesn't change. The streets intersect at 90-degree angles and the buildings rise vertically.
The grid represents a big change from the traditional model of the brain's wiring, Wedeen says. In that model, he says, "the brain looked somewhat like a plate of spaghetti or perhaps like one of those old antique telephone switchboards with a million wires running more or less at random."
This apparently helps explain how a small number of genes could code something as complex as the human brain.
Photo credit: MGH-UCLA Human Connectome Project