Photo by Robert Clark, National Geographic
Photo by Robert Clark, National Geographic

Let Us Take A Walk In the Brain: My Cover Story For National Geographic

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White-matter connections in my brain ( Van Wedeen and colleagues at Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging)

Over the past year, I’ve spent a lot of time around brains. I’ve held slices of human brains preserved on glass slides. I’ve gazed through transparent mouse brains that look like marbles. I’ve spent a very uncomfortable hour having my own brain scanned (see the picture above). I’ve interviewed a woman about what it was like for her to be able to control a robot arm with an electrode implanted in her brain. I’ve talked to neuroscientists about the ideas they’ve used their own brains to generate to explain how the brain works.

This has all been part of my research for the cover story in the current issue of National Geographic. You can find it on the newsstands, and you can also read it online.

On Monday, I was interviewed on KQED about the story, and you can find the recording here.

National Geographic has been doing a lot of interesting work to adapt their magazine stories for the web and tablets. For my story, the great photographs from Robert Clark are accompanied by some fine video.

Here’s one of my favorites–an interview with Jeff Lichtman, a neuroscientist Harvard. He’s one of the people I interviewed for the story, and it was an inescapable torture to have to boil down our  conversation to fit there. In this video, an unboiled Laitman talks about his project to see everything in the brain, with some of the mind-blowing visualizations he and his colleagues have created. I think these images are the clearest proof of just how big a task neuroscientists have taken on in trying to map the brain and understand how it works.