Mind where you go

11.03.18: SCIENTISTS now know exactly which parts of the brain make us feel good, bad or indifferent.

The 20-year project to map the human brain is finally complete, and the resulting "brain manual" shows how the brain's 400,000 "modules" interact to produce the human mind.

"We now know, in theory, precisely which areas of the brain need to be manipulated to produce any illusion, any mood, any type of recollection ­ virtual reality, if you like," says the project's leader, Professor Sean Fowler.

The Brain Mapping Project was started in the 1990s, when functional brain imaging techniques first made it possible to watch patterns of activity in a working brain. The sensory modules ­ for example, the areas that deal with elements of visual experience, such as colour, depth and form ­ were relatively rapidly charted. However, it was not until helmet-style scanners were invented in 2005 that it became possible to watch what happens in a person's brain when it carries out normal day-to-day activities.

Critics of the project have claimed the technique is no better than the Victorian "science" of phrenology.

The interactions between brain modules revealed by the new machines were so complex that the brain-mapping project was nearly abandoned.

"People said that the brain would always be mysterious. Luckily, some of us never believed that," Fowler said. "Now we have finally produced the full instruction manual ­ we just have to decide what to do with it." RC