This is your brain on semantic groupings

Updated
This is your brain on semantic groupings
This is your brain on semantic groupings

As maps go, I’m not sure this one gives me much direction, but I really like the experiment and the researchers have done a great, generous job with sharing the results - the first interactive map of the brain’s “semantic space.”

As explained more thoroughly by the nice fellow below, Alex Huth, first author of the paper, what they did was show labeled images and actions to people while scanning their brains with an MRI machine. The subjects watched hours of video, with their brains observed processing and organizing the images and information. 

What they show is that the brain does indeed make relational groupings of what it sees, but what it doesn’t do is order those groups in discrete areas of the brain.

If, like me, you’ve absorbed the urban legend about only using a small portion of your brain (and the rest is untapped secret psychic power from our alien ancestors!) then you might have the sense that the brain works like a series of compartments. While it is the case that different regions of the brain serve different functions, what we see in this semantic map is that there’s no single spot for, say, “cowboy.”

There’s more to the story and it’s all presented in this amazing interactive “map” that shows the relationship between the categories and the bloodflow in the brain.

Other than the overall lesson of how distributed the activity is, I’m still puzzling through how to use the map, so if this is something you know about, I appreciate your insights.

 

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This is your brain on semantic groupings

Updated