Science of the Brain: How the Mind Works
It may seem like the Internet has an overwhelming number of links but it’s really quite simple compared to the human brain, which has roughly 1,000 trillion connections—about the same as the number of leaves on all the trees in a rainforest. Use the Science of the Brain Web Guide
to get a head start. Educators: Sign up for our education newsletter.
The U.S. government declared the 1990s the “Decade of the Brain,” and the amount and quality of information on the Web have only increased since. The following sites are comprehensive, providing information on the brain and neuroscience basics.
- Even the most basic sites may contain complex scientific terminology. If you need to find the meaning of a word, first check to see if the site has its own glossary. If not, check the Serendip Glossary of Terms.
- You can often get a good initial assessment of the site’s content and complexity by checking its source. Sites created by professional societies and universities usually contain fairly advanced scientific information. Sites put out by nonprofit organizations or government institutes usually cater more to the general public.
The Brain from Top to Bottom
covers all aspects of the brain, divided into five topics
: social, psychological, neurological, cellular and molecular. Visit each category for informative and understandable graphics along with keyword links to pages with more extensive information.
Society for Neuroscience
has an “Information for the General Public” page that holds a vast collection of valuable resources. Take a look at Brain Facts
, a 64-page primer on the brain and nervous system. Also find information about the latest research and breakthroughs in neuroscience through a series of publications detailing Brain Research Success Stories
, weekly news
and much more.
Brain Facts and Figures,
a Web site created by a professor at the University of Washington, is a compilation of virtually every neurostatistic imaginable. Some of the data are quite practical and useful, others quite obscure. (Then again, you never know when you might need to find the number of fibers in the optic nerve of an albino rat or the thickness of a giant squid’s axon membrane.)
There is such a wealth of information on the Internet on the topics of neuroanatomy (brain structures) and brain functions that typing any of these terms into a search engine will generate tens of thousands of hits. This section can help streamline your search, highlighting some of the best sites on the structure and functions of the brain.
- When researching sites other than those recommended here, it’s a good idea to look for a copyright date at the bottom of the page. New brain research findings are revealed at such a rapid rate that it’s important that the site is fairly current and, even better, if it’s frequently updated.
- If you’re prone to getting queasy, be prepared: Many of the brain images you’ll see are photographs of preserved human (and other animal) brains.
To learn about brain structures and brain functions …
“The Amazing Brain” focuses on the relationship between brain structure and function, a field of science known as functional neuroanatomy. Scroll down to find a number of downloadable PDF maps showing the major divisions and pathways of the brain. Also take a look at the “Web Resources” section for links to other sites that provide tutorials, images and diagrams for learning about neuroanatomy.
created by the Washington University School of Medicine for first-year medical students, covers the functions, connections and various disorders related to each part of the brain, with numerous accompanying images and diagrams.
Centre for Neuro Skills
covers the structure of the brain. The clickable “Brain Map
” focuses on the effects of damage to various parts of the brain. You’ll get insight into not only the physiological functions but also the behavioral functions of healthy and damaged brain areas.
To view images of the brain …
offers countless detailed images of the brain—more than 6,000 images from 15 different species, including humans. Get started by using the site’s Navigation Guide
for tips on zooming and explanations of image labels. Or jump right in by browsing the list of species
on the left.
created by the University of Washington, is a top-notch site for delving into the anatomy of the brain. Take a look at the Brain Atlas for detailed 3-D images, dissections and animations of all brain sections, and don’t miss the Neuroanatomy Interactive Syllabus
for additional images with instructional captions.
a site founded by Bryn Mawr College, allows you to slice your way through photographs of actual human, monkey, cat, rat and frog brains. All images are accompanied by explanations that students and nonscientists can understand.
Medical Science 532,
a course presented by the University of Idaho, features four photographs that illustrate 27 critical structures of the human brain. Click on a photo for a breakdown of specific structures within that section of the brain. Choose a structure to get more detailed photos and a brief introduction to functions.
Comparative Mammalian Brain Collections,
a cooperative effort between the University of Wisconsin, Michigan State University and the National Museum of Health and Medicine, presents images from one of the world's largest collections of well-preserved brains from more than 175 species. Find graphics, photographs and images of stained sections of the brain, as well as additional information about brain evolution, development, circuitry and function.
Although scientists are only beginning to scratch the surface, new technologies are helping to solve some of the mysteries of the brain at an ever-increasing rate. With most major scientific journals maintaining Web sites, the latest neuroscience and brain research is right at your fingertips.
- Most scientific journals present only article abstracts on their Web sites and require the purchase of an often quite expensive subscription for access to the entire text of an article. But bear in mind that there are alternatives. If you’re interested in one article on a specific topic, most journals offer temporary (usually one-day) access to an individual article for a small fee.
- If you’re interested in staying up to date on the most recent research findings, most sites allow you to sign up for free e-newsletters that provide either abstracts or summaries of the latest journal articles.
- Brain and neuroscience research is advancing at lightning speed, so if you’re searching a topic by subject or keyword, be sure to check the dates of the articles retrieved. Research findings from even just a few years back may already have been refuted or become obsolete.
provides summaries—in laymen’s terms—of 30 of the most recent and significant research studies from premier journals. Use the site’s search field (in the upper right corner) to access relevant archived articles with keywords of interest.
is a journal that provides peer-reviewed articles about cutting-edge neuroscience and neurological research. Get an annual subscription (24 issues) for about $200 or download single issues for $50. Access abstracts of the current year’s articles and the full text of all articles from previous years for free online.
provides links to top peer-reviewed journals, including the highly esteemed neuroscience and neurological journal Brain (published monthly). Access all abstracts and full articles appearing before 2001 free of charge. For more current articles, get a paid print subscription ($144/year) or view a single issue for $15.
The Journal of Neuroscience
is a weekly periodical published by the Society for Neuroscience (SFN). Search for articles by date, author or keywords and view abstracts for free online. Obtain one-day access to any single article for a fee, or subscribe for $2,990/year to access full issues.
maintains a vast database of neurology-related journal articles and books. View journal article abstracts, book summaries and tables of contents for free online. For the full text of a journal article, you can buy one-day access.
There are numerous neuroscience and brain blogs on the Web, many of which reference new breakthroughs in neuroscience, thus providing valuable information in a user-friendly way. Here are our favorites.
- Blogs are rarely sources of impartial information. The blogger often has an opinion on the topic that's covered in the blog, so be aware of bias.
- Credibility can be another question. It’s worthwhile to always check out the author(s) of a blog to determine credibility and gain perspective. All research has some bias, and even among researchers, physicians and professors, there is a range of authority and perspectives that may affect their opinions on certain topics.
is an interesting collection of blogs about current research on neuroscience, the workings of the brain, and their implications on human thinking and behavior. Search the blogs by subject or date, or probe the workings of your own brain using a collection of neuroscience tricks in "Mind Hacks: Tips & Tricks for Using Your Brain
blogs about the latest research “findings in Human Brain Imaging, Cognitive Neuroscience, and Psychopharmacology.” What makes this blog unique is that the research articles discussed generally pertain to human behavior and focus on topics that are of interest to mainstream readers; for example, “how our brains evaluate sexual attraction.”
is a market research firm with a blog devoted to improving brain fitness. Learn how to cultivate a vibrant, healthy brain throughout life with articles that are fun and interesting to read, and offer innovative ideas and perspectives.
isn’t a blog for beginners. It focuses on the topics of neurology and neuroscience as they relate to brain fitness. Entries primarily address and evaluate articles from peer-reviewed, neuroscientific journals and therefore contain a moderate amount of technical language.
More and more teachers—from elementary to college level—are posting their curricula online, turning the Internet into a huge database of educational resources. Whether you need sample lesson plans, assignments or exams, or ideas for labs and projects, teaching neuroscience and the brain for kids is easy with help from the Web.
- Don’t be too quick to dismiss activities that appear to be just for fun. Many suggestions—such as making edible neurons and playing synaptic tag—can teach students a lot about the brain and enable them to grasp complex concepts such as the role of neurotransmitters, enzymes and dendrites.
- Be aware of your audience if you’ll be using brain images for a lecture or presentation. MRI scans might be very useful when shown at a professional conference, but of little interest to young school students. Use particular discretion when displaying images of cadaver brains, which may be considered unethical and offensive to some individuals.
Neuroscience For Kids
includes a huge selection of games, experiments, projects, videos and lesson plans for elementary, middle school and high school students, all of which aim to make learning about the brain and neuroscience both fun and highly informative.
has student-oriented information about the brain along with games, puzzles and other learning activities. Find information for teachers about the brain and learning, as well as a free monthly e-newsletter
discussing the latest in information about the brain and learning.
is a collaborative effort between the University of Nebraska at Omaha and the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. With its funky sound effects and bright colors, the site is geared primarily toward kids, allowing them to play brain games, create personal brain Web pages and ask questions of brain experts. The site also offers information for teachers
, including lesson plans with hands-on classroom activities aimed at making learning about neuroscience and the brain fun and exciting.
With life expectancy on the rise, it’s becoming increasingly important to preserve cognitive functioning so that we can remain active, vibrant and mentally sharp in our golden years. Experts now believe that well-directed mental exercise is a must for cognitive enhancement and healthy aging. Use the sites below to find information on improving brain fitness and brain health.
- Most Web sites contain a glossary of relevant terms, but one word that is of particular significance with respect to brain fitness is “plasticity.” Brain plasticity (also known as neuroplasticity) refers to the brain’s ability to change with learning.
To learn about brain plasticity…
Neuroscience for Kids
presents “Brain Plasticity: What Is It?” a concise overview of brain plasticity. Learn neuroscientific terms that are presented in a way that can be understood by laymen and children. Read an overview of brain plasticity, facts about neuroplasticity, how plasticity develops and changes as the brain ages, and how plasticity affects learning and memory.
presents an easy-to-understand article on brain plasticity and cognition that stresses the importance of brain “exercise” in improving learning, memory and concentration. Take advantage of the site’s brain fitness tests and tips, as well as countless links to brain plasticity and fitness breakthroughs and news.
For brain exercises …
has a variety of resources on brain vitality and health, separated into easy-to-navigate categories. Find information about brain nutrition and physical and mental exercises that improve cognition and memory, or read blogs, articles and newsletters. Software, books and other educational resources are also available for purchase.
is straightforward, fun and easy to navigate. Find a wealth of valuable information about the brain and associated disorders, as well as tests, games, puzzles and exercises all aimed at optimizing brain fitness.
is a somewhat busy site, with tarticle sandwiched between advertisements and links. But reading the information here is time well spent. Look for brain fitness games, news on brain aging, tips to keep your brain healthy, recommended brain foods and more.
There are neuroscience books about the brain for laymen, students, scientists and researchers; textbooks and journals; and human interest stories about disorders, behavior and unusual brain and mind phenomena. Use the sites below to get help buying neuroscience books and brain resources, including brain models and even brain-shaped gummy candy.
- You’ll find books filled with brain teasers, books containing first-hand accounts of people living with brain abnormalities, books written for the casual scientist and books targeting physicians or medical students with terminology so complex it will make your brain spin. Before you whip out your credit card, be sure to first determine the book’s target audience.
- If you’re looking to avoid the boredom of dry, scientific information about the brain, try instead searching for books or DVDs that tell stories. You’ll find a great deal of valuable scientific information embedded in accounts of real medical case studies or personal accounts of brain-related phenomena.
- Be sure to do some comparative shopping before purchasing items such as brain models. If your objective is to study neural networks, for example, you’ll need to spring for a fairly pricey model. But if you’ll be using the model just for demonstration, there are plenty of excellent replicas available for a fraction of the cost.
Taylor & Francisc
sells books, e-books, textbooks and journals for researchers, instructors and students. Browse the large selection of behavioral, cognitive, developmental and social neuroscience texts.
a site of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has an extensive collection of books, journals, conference materials and other brain and neuroscience reference materials from The MIT Press. Click on the title of a book for a brief summary and the table of contents. In order to purchase items, you’ll need to subscribe to CogNet ($195/year).
offers an annotated list of books on the topic of brain plasticity and its effects on behavior, mental state and conscious thought, along with links to purchase books. The books provide compelling information for laymen about the mind and various ways in which we can control and alter our own thoughts, feelings and performance.
Centre for Neuro Skills Store
has a store stocked with DVDs, newsletters, brain models and journal articles. The focus of all resources is traumatic brain injury (TBI), but many include valuable information about the brain. Be sure to read the brief product summaries before making a purchase to ensure that the resource is what you're looking for.
Red Reef Publication’s
“Resources for the Brain Sciences” provides a wealth of resources with products specifically designed for use by students of every educational level, from elementary school to graduate and medical school. Find brain models and dissections, books, study guides and software. On the lighter side, the site also offers a selection of brain novelty items
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