These insights, however, are only the first step. The more we know about brain health, the more likely it is we might be able to deliver not only a better understanding of how the brain works but also of how your individual brain works. Eventually we want to offer personalized analyses to help each one of us improve and optimize our own neurocapacity. Here's an example: your individual data might show that based on your specific biological needs, you function at your very best when you get at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep, eat a certain food, or might show that you are most susceptible to mental fatigue during certain times or under certain physiologic conditions. Knowing these things, you might decide to change your bedtime, exercise more, or limit yourself to only one glass of wine.
The Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative is aimed at revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain. By accelerating the development and application of innovative technologies, researchers will be able to produce a revolutionary new dynamic picture of the brain that, for the first time, shows how individual cells and complex neural circuits interact in both time and space. Long desired by researchers seeking new ways to treat, cure, and even prevent brain disorders, this picture will fill major gaps in our current knowledge and provide unprecedented opportunities for exploring exactly how the brain enables the human body to record, process, utilize, store, and retrieve vast quantities of information, all at the speed of thought.
Hoekzema and colleagues think the differences result from sex hormones that flood the brain of a pregnant woman. In the 11 places, the MRI data indicate reductions in volume of the brain's gray matter, but it's not clear what that means. For example, it could reflect loss of brain cells or a pruning of the places where brain cells communicate, called synapses.
Our brains are much better at recalling vague pieces of information than precise details, according to two studies. One possible evolutionary explanation is that abstract ideas could be more helpful than specifics for getting through daily life. "Imagine you get bitten by a dog in the park. If you want to prevent being bitten again, it doesn't help to just remember that this particular cute, little, white dog in this particular park has bitten you.
It turns out that in larger human brains, regions involved in bringing together information are hyperexpanded – but we don't know what affect this might have on intelligence yet. Armin Raznahan at the US National Institute of Mental Health in Maryland and his colleagues discovered this by comparing brain images from around 3,000 people. They compared the area of 80,000 points across the cortex – the large part of our brains that is involved in higher functions like thinking. Analysing these, they found that some particular areas expanded more than others in people who had an overall larger brain size. These regions seem to be involved in integrating information from across the brain, he says.