Scientists Find 97 Never-Before-Seen Regions of the Brain

In this age of hoverboards and 3-D-printed food, you might think scientists would have no trouble understanding our internal organs. In fact, our bodies are so complicated that even mapping the topography of the human brain has been quite a challenge. Now, at least, we’re one step closer, as researchers have created the most comprehensive brain map yet. They published their findings in the journal Nature.

Part of the difficulty of mapping the brain lies in its astonishing complexity and sophistication. In order to understand the brain as a whole, scientists need to consider different types of measurements at once. Yet, until now, most brain maps have only considered one element (like cell density or changes in blood flow) at a time. A new paradigm was in order, and so an international team of neuroscientists set out to create one.

They started by pulling brain scan data on 210 healthy young participants in the Human Connectome Project, or HCP. The government-funded HCP is a five-year project that aims to advance scientific understanding of our connectome—the links and pathways inside our brains. Each participant’s file included measurements of the thickness of their cortex; brain function; connections between brain regions; the landscape and orientation of brain cells; and levels of an essential fatty compound called myelin.

By overlaying all of these measurements and looking for patterns, the researchers were able to build a richly detailed diagram of the brain’s many sections. In addition to correctly locating 83 already known regions, the new map also identified another 97 that had never before been spotted. The team then tested out the new technique on the brain scans of another 210 participants to ensure the map was accurate. They found that, like the human body as a whole, there was substantial variation in the size of different parts, but the overall layout was consistent.

The researchers are quite pleased with their findings, but are hardly going to sit back and put their feet up, said lead author Mathew Glasser of Washington University Medical School.

“We’re thinking of this as version 1.0,” Glasser told Nature. “That doesn’t mean it’s the final version, but it’s a far better map than the ones we’ve had before.”

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Afternoon Map
The Most Popular Infomercial Product in Each State

You don't have to pay $19.95 plus shipping and handling to discover the most popular infomercial product in each state: AT&T retailer All Home Connections is giving that information away for free via a handy map.

The map was compiled by cross-referencing the top-grossing infomercial products of all time with Google Trends search interest from the past calendar year. So, which crazy products do people order most from their TVs?

Folks in Arizona know that it's too hot there to wear layers; that's why they invest in the Cami Secret—a clip-on, mock top that gives them the look of a camisole without all the added fabric. No-nonsense New Yorkers are protecting themselves from identity theft with the RFID-blocking Aluma wallet. Delaware's priorities are all sorted out, because tons of its residents are still riding the Snuggie wave. Meanwhile, Vermont has figured out that Pajama Jeans are the way to go—because who needs real pants?

Unsurprisingly, the most popular product in many states has to do with fitness and weight loss, because when you're watching TV late enough to start seeing infomercials, you're probably also thinking to yourself: "I need to get my life together. I should get in shape." Seven states—Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, Utah, and Wisconsin—have invested in the P90X home fitness system, while West Virginia and Arkansas prefer the gentler workout provided by the Shake Weight. The ThighMaster is still a thing in Illinois and Washington, while Total Gym and Bowflex were favored by South Dakota and Wyoming, respectively. 

Kitchen items are clearly another category ripe for impulse-buying: Alabama and North Dakota are all over the George Forman Grill; Alaska and Rhode Island are mixing things up with the Magic Bullet; and Floridians must be using their Slice-o-matics to chop up limes for their poolside margaritas.

Cleaning products like OxiClean (D.C. and Hawaii), Sani Sticks (North Carolina), and the infamous ShamWow (which claims the loyalty of Mainers) are also popular, but it's Proactiv that turned out to be the big winner. The beloved skin care system claimed the top spot in eight states—California, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas—making it the most popular item on the map.

Peep the full map above, or check out the full study from All Home Connections here.

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Design
A Florida Brewery Created Edible Six-Pack Rings to Protect Marine Animals

For tiny scraps of plastic, six-pack rings can pose a huge threat to marine life. Small enough and ubiquitous enough that they’re easy to discard and forget about, the little plastic webs all too often make their way to the ocean, where animals can ingest or become trapped in them. In order to combat that problem, Florida-based Saltwater Brewery has created what they say is the world’s first fully biodegradable, compostable, edible six-pack rings.

The edible rings are made of barley and wheat and are, if not necessarily tasty, at least safe for animals and humans to ingest. Saltwater Brewery started packaging their beers with the edible six-pack rings in 2016. They charge slightly more for their brews to offset the cost of the rings' production. They hope that customers will be willing to pay a bit more for the environmentally friendly beers and are encouraging other companies to adopt the edible six-pack rings in order to lower manufacturing prices and save more animals.

As Saltwater Brewery president Chris Gove says in the video above: “We want to influence the big guys and kind of inspire them to also get on board.”

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