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New study sheds lights on the rich tapestry of the brain

Queensland researchers have generated one of the most extensive computer models of how brain waves interact and change in the complex organ – a move that will further understanding of it.

The study was led by Dr James Roberts who heads QIMR Berghofer’s Brain Modelling Group.

Dr Roberts said the computer based modelling provided insights into the tapestry of how the brain worked.

“We all know the brain is complex, and researchers have observed its electrical activity for a long time, but current methods haven’t really enabled us to see the rich dynamics of brain waves,” Dr Roberts said.

“This modelling shows how the brain is changing every millisecond, the way brain waves ebb and flow and how they interact in the cortex.

“We took data gathered from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain and used complex algorithms to map out all the fibre tracts and simulate the activity of all the connected brain regions,” Dr Roberts said.

“The modelling reveals a rich variety of three-dimensional wave patterns, including traveling waves, spiral waves, sources, and sinks.

“We currently don’t know what the brain is doing from moment to moment… our theory shows there’s a lot of rich, fast dynamics happening that you wouldn’t see using slower imaging technologies like MRI, or blurry technologies like electroencephalography (EEG).

“It’s like trying to analyse the damage cyclonic seas can do to a coastline by just looking at a series of photos. You get an idea, but a video of the same storm event would allow you to see all the elements at play.

“Our modelling explains some of the interesting wave-like dynamics seen in human neuroimaging data, and opens a new window into future, sharper studies of brain activity.

“Our mathematical model describes how different parts of the brain communicate, constrained by the wiring map of connections obtained from imaging.

“We also hope to come up with models of healthy and unhealthy brains so we can understand what happens when things go wrong in disorders such as neurodegeneration and epilepsy.

“If we can find what’s different then we can try to find treatments.

“We will now try to validate our models with data, to develop even more accurate and detailed models of how the brain functions.”

The study has been published in the journal Nature Communications.