Class blog for sharing and commenting on current events in biology.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Brain, in Exquisite Detail

Gorman, James. "The Brain, in Exquisite Detail." The New York Times. The New York Times, 6 Jan. 2014. Web. 11 Jan. 2014. <®ion=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Science&pgtype=article>.

Deanna Barch is a researcher at Washington University and she is trying to create a detailed, and interactive model of the human brain.  She and a number of other scientists are performing MRI brain scans and many other assessments through cognitive, physical, psychological and a number of other tests on the 1,200 volunteers.  The tests are designed to try to activate every part of the brain, and also to check for physical fitness and emotional states.  On a database called Workbench over the data of over 238 subjects has been released.  They call it the Human Connectome Project.  The brains are put in these databases for neurosurgeons and doctors to use as a reference.  They will be able to see extremely detailed pictures (detail to one and a half cubic millimeters) of all different types of brains.  This project is one of many new attempts at studying and trying to understand the mysteries of the brain.  Recently there has been a major push on neuroscience due to a large amount of government funding.  This has caused amazing advances in the technology used to understand the brain, and what we know about the brain. 

This experiment is going to be very beneficial to the world of neuroscience and will be able to help doctors cure many people.  There are many diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease that cause many serious problems and usually end up causing death.  Hopefully this database can be used to help find out why and where that happens, and what we can do to stop it.  This has already helped many psychiatrists because some of the tests were able to lead to discoveries about depression and what is happening in the brain to cause that feeling.  This database is a way for scientists to truly see the human brain but not just one, over a thousand different, healthy brains.

            I thought that this article was very well written, and thorough in describing the entire experiment.  It was very helpful to have multiple specific examples of how this research has and will help the world.  One thing that I particularly liked was the background of Dr. Barch and her commentary on everything.  It made it that much more credible and interesting.  There was a more personal connection.  One thing that I feel would have made this article better was if they removed some of the unnecessary information about funding and who or where it was from.  It just separated the interesting sections about the experiment and made the article more drawn out.  


  1. Wow Jason, great job! You kept your summary concise with only the key details, which was much appreciated, and it was very easy to read since many of the terms were comprehensible. I liked how you included specific facts and statistics about the brain scans and the purpose of them. I found it interesting how the researchers can view such extremely detailed pictures of so many brains. I also found it surprising that the government suddenly started funding neuroscience, why is that? Your relevance paragraph was quite intriguing because it explained how many diseases could benefit from this research and they can possibly find a way to prevent these disorders. Also, I learned that psychiatrists could even benefit from this research as well; this could immensely help with finding immediate cures for depression and it could help doctors see if their patients are going through depression in the first place. One suggestion is that you should’ve included more information about what “different types of brains” they are taking brain scans of; are they all healthy, or are they already starting to look into a couple diseases? Also, I think you had a great first sentence that really fascinates the reader, but you should’ve connected more of your current event to how she is making an interactive model of the brain based off of the thousands of scans. Otherwise, this was well written and included good information!

  2. I really liked your analysis of this article. Your analysis was very attention grabbing and made it clear as to why we should care. You write in a way that is straight to the point, explaining the important information and making it clear with a minimal amount of words. This is very impressive. It is interesting how the article explained a lot about government funding. Was there further significance to the fact that they are now funding research?
    The only problem that I have with your analysis is that I would have liked to know a little bit more about the technical process and how the construction of an interactive model works. Other than that you id an awesome job!

  3. Nice job, Jason! As said in previous comments posted, your analysis and presentation on this current event was great. It was an easy to read summary, with a superior analysis to comprehend. You did a very nice job explaining the impact this research has on today's society, which is always interesting to learn about. Personally, I am very curious about the human brain and it is nice to hear that the government has begun to fund neuroscience for further advancements. I was surprised that this new experiment and testing process may lead to the cure of many incurable diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson's, truly remarkable. Although your analysis was great, and you were to the point while including a good amount of information, you should have added more information about the brain, and exactly what the scientists are looking for, and where and how. Your article was easy to read, however, I think that a little more information on the topic of neuroscience would have made your article even more authentic. Great job!

  4. Jason did an amazing job on his summary paragraph. Neuroscience is such a complicated topic and I was very pleased by how Jason kept his intro short and sweet so that the topic was simpler to understand. While doing this Jason also did a very good job in weaving in specific details and statistics without making the article overwhelming or too complicated. The relevance paragraph was also very well written in how it described how this procedure is used by common doctors every day. In this way he was able to relate neuroscience studies made at Washington University relevant to the common person.
    I was unaware of this new push for neuroscience information but I do now thanks to this article. I was aware of what neuroscience was but I had no idea about the advances that were being made into the subject. I also found it amazing how with current day technology we are able to create a diagram of a human brain so detailed that the observer can see up to half a cubic centimeter of it.
    One this I would have liked is if Jason had added more on the new advances in technology that allowed for this to happen. Also, I would have liked if he had answered the question, “Why the sudden push now?”

  5. Great Job Jason! I really liked your article and you really explained your topic well. You really understood the article and you were able to interpret it into your article. This is also a really hard topic to explain and you did a really good job of explaining it without restating the whole article. This article taught me alot about the new research going on in the brain. The only thing I would work on is maybe more about the technology. Otherwise great job!