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This week on SciShow news, strap in for a trip through the frontier of the human brain. The human connectome is a years long venture to explore and map the pathways of the human brain, and this past week scientists released two terabytes of awesome quality pictures in an enormous data dump which is now freely available to be used in all manner of neurology research.

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Hello! This is Hank Green with more news for your brain, and this week, news about your brain.

Previously on SciShow, we discussed the Human Connectome Project. If you haven't seen those episodes, you should, because quite possibly it's the most ambitious investigation of human biology in the world today: a years-long venture to explore and map the pathways of the human brain.

Hundreds of scientists and technicians around the world are collaborating to chart these pathways -- together dubbed the Connectome -- and on Tuesday, they gave us their first major brain dump, releasing 2 terabytes of really awesome quality brain pictures. Two trillion bytes, like 400 DVDs worth of images and data from the brains of 68 volunteers

And for people who care about their brains -- hopefully this includes you -- this is a big deal, because while we've got some pretty good maps of, like, roundworm brains -- if you can call them that -- we only have a fragmentary understanding of how the human brain is circuited and how that circuitry affects personality, perception, cognitive ability, emotion: basically who we are.

Now, the new data dump doesn't include specific findings. Its aim is just to capture the most detailed data ever about the brain and make it freely available to everyone so it can be used in all manner of neurology research.

And to that end, Project scientists have used a mixture of MRI methods to map the pathways that connect more than 500 major regions of the brain, and they captured these scans in pretty much any scenario that you could put a brain in: with brains at rest, with their owners engaged in different activities, scanning the brains of people of different backgrounds, but also of siblings and even twins.

This way, we can get a better look at how neural connections work, how they vary from person to person, and how they affect individual abilities and behaviors. Maybe I can know kung fu.

And also, finding out what normal variability looks like may help us pinpoint what's gone wrong in cases of brain disorders, which can lead to better treatments.

Now, the new brain images are certainly the first of their kind, but they're still pretty rough, like maps that only show the major freeways. It'll be up to future generations of brain explorers to chart the details.

Now for a little basic information on the geography in question.

Your brain tissue consists of two major kinds of cells. Neurons, which make up the pathways that we're talking about, conduct electrical impulses, and glia are like your brain's personal assistants, giving the neurons structural support and metabolic support, providing them with oxygen and making the fatty tissue that insulates them, called myelin.

Neurons tend to get all the credit even though we have four times more glial cells than neurons, but now neuroscientists are starting to think that glia may have played a more important role in the evolution of the human brain and why we are the way that we are. Researchers have already found that compared to those in rodent brains, human glia are proportionately larger and more varied.

In a study released Wednesday in the journal Cell Stem Cell, neuroscientists from the University of Rochester found that mice who'd had human glia grafted into their brains showed improved memory and learning. They performed tasks better than normal mice, like finding their way out of this thing called a Barnes Maze, plus their brain tissue showed increased connectivity. That's a sign of better learning and memory.

Now, some of you might be thinking, "Oh, good job. You put, like, human brain cells in mouse brains and they got smarter. Yeah, of course they would." But the point is that glia and not neurons made these mice into little, beady-eyed geniuses, which suggests that these cells we've been treating like bit players all this time may be just as important to our learning ability as our neurons.

It's like a scientist saying, "Hey! It turns out actually the vanilla is what makes the chocolate-vanilla swirl so awesome." And you'd think that he's crazy, but he's not.

The next step in the research will be exploring what roles glia might play in brain disorders like schizophrenia and Huntington's Disease.

I hope you enjoyed our trip through the frontier of the human brain today. If you have any questions or ideas, we're on Facebook and Twitter and, of course, down in the comments below. And if you want to keep up to date on all the latest breaking news, you can go to and subscribe.