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NEUROANATOMY: Backwardness of human neuroanatomy

Alan J. Robinson robin073 at maroon.tc.umn.edu
Mon Nov 6 09:23:32 EST 1995

On 5 Nov 1995 21:52:03 GMT, 
spittman at prysm.com  <spittman at prysm.com> wrote:

>In a Commentary, "Backwardness of human neuroanatomy",  found in the Jan 14, 1993 issue of NATURE (Vol. 361 
>pp.109-110),  Francis Crick and Edward Jones wrote, "To interpret the
>activity of living human brains, their neuroanatomy must be known in
>detail.  New techniques to do this are urgently needed, since most of the
>methods now used on monkeys cannot be used on humans." 
>The main point of the article is that we have MRI and PET, but do we have a
>human cortical map equivalent of the detail of the macaque monkey cortical
>map? Have we developed the techniques necessary to carry out the task?
>I would like to know if any progress has been made in this area (i.e. new
>techniques resolve human neuroanatomy in detail) since this Commentary was
>published almost 3 years ago.  Also, how does the technique of accurately
>quantifying neuron and glia cell densities and cell size from sectioned
>tissue help construct a cortical map? 


The anatomy of the brain is still not understood in anywhere near 
the same detail as the rest of the body.   There is even disagreement 
over the basic anatomical terminology and assignment of functions to 
different regions of the brain.  E.g. what is the "limbic system"?  
Every book I've looked in has a different definition. 

There are some pretty elaborate maps now of the interconnections 
between the different visual areas (at least for monkeys), but they 
still don't give us much of a clue how vision works.  E.g. where are 
the patterns of letters held, and how is matching carried out for 
arbitrary position, brightness, scale, rotation, and style?

BTW, Crick is good at pointing out tasks for other people to carry out 
(and good at pointing out other people's deficiencies as well - 
though I haven't noticed too many results from his own research in 
recent years!  Perhaps that's why he felt the need to write this 
article - not his problem, right? <g>.)


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