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Inspire the Mind - An interview about the Science special issue on brain connectivity

In the morgue. That’s where Stephanie Forkel, a researcher whose work focuses on neurovariability, first realized that there are differences between what people’s brains look like.

“The first time I saw a brain, I was like, ‘hang on a minute!’ I thought my neuroanatomy was good, but this doesn't look like the textbook,” she says, laughing. “So that was my ‘aha moment’ of realizing that there is a huge degree of variability in anatomy that we didn't capture in textbooks.”

The mismatch between what Forkel had studied, and what she was seeing in real life, is partially due to the fact that neuroimaging, the scientific method used to learn more about the brain through scans, was occupied with the question of how the brain works, examining the so called “gray matter, where the neuronal cells bodies are. As a result, it largely disregarded the importance of the brain’s “white matter” — the deep tissue that stores the pathways for connection between the brain’s areas. That’s where a lot of the variability takes place, Forkel says......

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