28 July 2012


Median view of the brain (nose would be on the right)
I'm currently studying neuroanatomy, the anatomy of the brain. Although the brain might appear homogenous and dull from its exterior, inside is a richly varied landscape. Lakes and rivers of cerebrospinal fluid course through the mountains and valleys of neural tissue. A few bridges of neural fibers span the division between cerebral hemispheres, allowing the higher brain's two halves to converse. Many structures were named (in Latin) for an object they resemble: an almond ("amygdala"), a belt ("cingulate cortex"), a knee ("genu of the corpus collosum"), a seahorse ("hippocampus"). Colors also were an inspiration: particular landmarks appear black ("substantia nigra"), white ("white matter"), gray ("gray matter"), red ("red nucleus"), and even cerulean ("locus coeruleus"). Even the tiniest anatomical features are named. Some names are whimsical: the "mammillothalamic fasciculus of Vicq d'Azyr", the "habenular trigone", and the "calcar avis".

The brain is valuable real estate, its compact structures multifaceted and intricate. By necessity our maps of the brain are exquisitely detailed.

Admittedly, it is a chore to be learning several hundred unique structures of the brain: their functions, their interconnections, and their relative positions. But it also is fabulous traveling this well-trod ground. It reminds me of looking up at the night sky and rediscovering the constellations traced out by those of old.