Beautiful journey through the brain

Beautiful journey through the brain

There are many books about the brain. But Our brain atlas By Lara Wierenga and Dirma Janse Exceptionally clear and beautiful.

willem shonen

You already had nerves and now you get fainting, you don’t remember the material you learned and you spoil the exam. Very well known. But how does it work? It was illustrated by scientist Lara Weringa and illustrator Derma Jhansi in Our brain atlasbased on famous experience.

In the Milky Way experiment, subjects were given two pictures of imagined galaxies and had to guess which one was the oldest. Then they get the correct answer and two new pictures. This way you quickly learn the order in that list of galaxies.

Then one part of the testing community has to give a presentation before a strict jury and the other part is spared from this grueling task. And then everyone should learn the ages of the galaxies again. First with a row of partially known and partially new systems, then with a row of eight still unknown images.

The latter works well for both groups. But something strange happens on the first test: the test subjects who were subjected to stress performed significantly worse than the others. While this task is easier, because they already know half of the photos. But combining old and new knowledge doesn’t work well for the brain when it’s under stress. This can be followed by a brain scan: when current and new knowledge is combined, the so-called medial prefrontal cortex becomes active. Stress depresses this part of the brain.

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Illustration from the “Brain Atlas”.

Aha, but how did that test years ago, which made you so nervous that you failed, is still fresh in your memory, when you can’t remember what you ate last Thursday?

This has also been investigated, with a similar experience. And then it turns out that stress causes all the sensory perceptions of that exciting moment to merge into a single memory. Weather, temperature, light, amazing things in the room, people’s facial features: without stress you store them all separately, with stress they are stored together in one memory. Just think about this test and they will all come back to life.

Twisted Choices

It is briefly explained and clearly illustrated in the atlas. The title might suggest that it is a complete and thus predictable overview of the facts of the brain. but that is not all. It contains a lot of basic knowledge about anatomy and how the brain works, but Wierenga and Janse also make special choices in the subjects they deal with. These options are primarily inspired by Wierenga’s scientific background, who researches the brains of Leiden children and adolescents.

So it has a lot to do with brain development, from willingness to regression, learning and the creative mind, intelligence, and gender differences.

And about the contemplative mind. Because where stress hinders galactic learning and can spoil exams, there’s also a solution: meditation. The atlas summarizes what is known about the effect of meditation on the brain. This is not so much, the field of research is still young. It is clear that meditation works; It helps you focus on one thing and deal with (negative) feelings, such as stress.

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Lara Weringa and Derma Jhansi,
Our brain atlas. A visual journey through the brain.
Lannoo, 264 pages, €39.99

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