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‘Big Picture: Inside the brain’ out now

19 December 2012

The latest issue of ‘Big Picture’, the Wellcome Trust’s free educational resource for teachers and learners, is about how different technologies are helping us understand the brain.

Inside each of our brains are some 86 billion nerve cells and the same number of supporting cells - all packed into just 1.4 kg of tissue. In 'Big Picture: Inside the brain', we explore how scientists and doctors use imaging and other techniques to understand what is going on inside this fascinating organ without having to open the skull.

Online, you can download the PDF of the magazine and poster and subscribe to receive print or PDF copies of future issues.

In this issue, we explore the various imaging technologies that are used in science and medicine, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) and positron emission tomography (PET). We look at what these can and cannot tell us about the structure and function of the brain. As always, 'Big Picture' features some of the latest scientific research and findings in the field, alongside core, need-to-know science.

One of our regular features, 'Real voices', features interviews with a young woman being treated for obsessive-compulsive disorder, a paediatric brain surgeon who uses imaging in his work and a cultural historian interested in the brain. Our infographic, 'Neurons by numbers', gives a numerical take on the brain and brain imaging.

To stimulate debate, we present a range of scenarios that could occur or have already occurred (including the use of imaging to communicate with people diagnosed as being in a vegetative state) and examine the link between personal responsibility and brain conditions.

The issue also comes with a colour poster detailing all you need to know about the brain, including diagrams of the brain, a nerve cell and a synapse, and information on different neurotransmitters and conditions that affect the brain. You can download the poster and order a copy online.

There are lots of other brainy educational resources online, including a series of historical case studies, an animation on the action potential, lesson ideas, image galleries from Wellcome Images and articles on different aspects of neurology and brain imaging. We also have several short videos, including one that follows a young woman who has had a stroke as she tries to learn more about the condition.

In early 2013 we are launching our first ever app, which will present learners with a series of stimulating debates on matters relating to the brain. It will initially be launched as a web app available from the Wellcome Trust website. You can try the demo here from 21 December.

If you would like to meet our Education and Learning team to discuss 'Big Picture' and other Wellcome Trust education initiatives, they will be at the Association for Science Education (ASE) conference in Reading, 2-5 January 2013, on stand CS44.

Look out for more brain-themed learning opportunities at Wonder, the Wellcome Trust and Barbican’s art and science season, in spring 2013.

We would love to hear your thoughts on this issue of 'Big Picture', as well as any questions or suggestions you have about the whole series. Have your say by emailing the ‘Big Picture’ team.

Image: The cover image of the latest issue of ‘Big Picture’: an intracranial recording for epilepsy. Credit: Robert Ludlow, UCL Institute of Neurology, London.

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