This article is over 5 years old and may contain outdated information.

Science & Tech

Mapping areas of the brain

  • Jan 08, 2014
  • 270 words
  • 2 minutes
Expand Image
Advertisement

It’s not always easy to fathom how neuroscientists study how the brain works.

But at the University of Saskatchewan, students like Layla Gould do it by asking participants to lie unmoving on a bed in a magnetic resonance imaging machine for nearly an hour as they read words out loud.

Gould, a PhD student of cognitive neuroscience, is looking specifically at what regions of the brain are activated when we read or look at pictures. Although some neuroscientists have traditionally thought the two tasks activate totally separate regions, Gould’s experiments suggest there is some overlap.

Expand Image

To test this, she uses an MRI machine to measure the flow of blood to different parts of the brain. Participants read words that appear on screens in special goggles inside the machine for the first 10 minutes, then say words that correspond to pictures for the next 10.

“We found that the visual word form area is also activated for pictures. That suggests that (the area) is not specific to word reading,” Gould says.

Ron Borowsky, a cognitive neuroscience professor in the psychology department and Gould’s supervisor, overseas a project that pairs graduate students with brains surgeons at the Royal University Hospital. Borowsky says that budget limitations brought a system into place that gives researchers from his lab access to the MRI machine at the hospital. In exchange, the neuroscience students are on hand to provide valuable information through their unique knowledge of different sectors of the brain.

Borowsky says this collaboration also allows surgeons to use less intrusive techniques during surgery. “They can guide surgeon’s decisions about where to cut,” he says.

Advertisement

Are you passionate about Canadian geography?

You can support Canadian Geographic in 3 ways:

Related Content

Wildlife

Wildlife Wednesday: The “wonderful net” protecting whales and dolphins from deep-sea brain damage

Plus: wolverine genome is sequenced for first time, Arctic fish species is found to produce antifreeze, dinosaur fossil discovered showing some skin and a pesky Canadian insect is feeling the heat

  • 1051 words
  • 5 minutes
Alan Evans, a neuroscientist at McGill University, was one of the researchers at the head of the BigBrain team

Science & Tech

The change makers: Alan Evans

This BigBrain researcher led the team that created the world’s first 3D high-resolution map of the human brain

  • 289 words
  • 2 minutes
Endangered caribou

Environment

Mapping out a new approach to biodiversity protection

Decisions around where to establish new protected areas in Canada should consider wildlife and ecosystem health first

  • 879 words
  • 4 minutes
Vents and chimneys on an underwater volcano

Science & Tech

Canadian technology takes ocean mapping to new depths

Researchers and industry leaders now have quicker access to data showing the complexity of the world’s seabed. Part five of Canada’s Ocean Supercluster: A six-part series. 

  • 806 words
  • 4 minutes