Incredible Images from Inside the Brain
Images from Portraits of the Mind: Visualizing the Brain from Antiquity to the 21st Century, by Carl Schoonover, published by Abrams. Captions (courtesy of Abrams) refer to both photographers and the scientists who pioneered the techniques behind the images.
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"The human cortex is the most complex object in the universe," writes Jonah Leher in the introduction to Carl Schoonover's Portraits of the Mind: Visualizing the Brain from Antiquity to the 21st Century. "Before we can speculate about it, we need to see it, even if we don't know what we're looking at."
The past few decades have allowed scientists to examine the brain with unprecedented exactitude, using microscopes, physiology instruments, MRI machines, and deep reserves of patience. The absolutely jaw-dropping photographic results fill the pages of Portraits of the Mind, which provides an overview of mankind's attempts to visualize the networks in his brain, and does so with unparalleled attention to the surprising aesthetic therein.
GOOD is proud to offer a selection of images from this book. If these photographs are any indication, then things inside your head will blow your mind.
Photograph by Eszter Blahak/Semmeleis Museum. A human skull inscribed by a 19th century practitioner of phrenology. According to this now discredited theory, bumps on the skull betray the volume of the brain areas beneath each one, and thus can be employed to divine a subject's cognitive or moral strengths and weaknesses.
Tamily Weissman, Jeff Lichtman, and Joshua Sanes (2007). Image taken from a transgenic “Brainbow” mouse that enables neuroscientists to distinguish between neighboring, densely packed neurons by illuminating them in different colors. This photomicrograph shows presynaptic terminals in the cerebellum, which are called rosettes because of their flowerlike appearance.
Thomas Deerinck and Mark Ellisman (2004). Photomicrograph of different components of the rat cerebellum, including Purkinje neurons in green, glia (non-neuronal cells) in red, and cell nuclei in blue.
Thomas Deerinck and Mark Ellisman (2009). Photomicrograph of a neuron’s cell body (top, center) and its dendrites radiating out of it, obtained with a scanning electron microscope.
Tamily Weissman, Jeff Lichtman, and Joshua Sanes (2005). Photomicrograph of a mouse hippocampus, an area of the brain critical for learning and memory.
Tamily Weissman, Jeff Lichtman, and Joshua Sanes (2007). Image taken from a transgenic "Brainbow" mouse that enables neuroscientists to distinguish between neighboring, densely packed neurons by illuminating them in different colors. This photomicrograph shows a few of the many neurons that are found in the neocortex.
Henning U. Voss and Nicholas D. Schiff (2008). Diffusion MRI image of a patient who has suffered a stroke in the thalamus. This has resulted in major disruptions to certain axon tracts, some of which are visible at the bottom of the figure.
Alfonso Rodríguez-Baeza and Marisa Ortega-Sánchez (2009). Photomicrograph of microscopic blood vessels that carry nutrients to neurons in the brain, obtained with a scanning electron microscope. This sample, from Human cerebral cortex, shows a large blood vessel at the surface of the brain (top), which sends down thin, densely branched capillaries to deliver blood throughout the entire cortex.