I have always loved maps. Before the days of i-pads, I remember as a very young child finding tracing paper and copying the maps in the backs of the encyclopedias that we were collecting, one at a time from the grocery store. Once copied, they could be colored and decorated. I loved learning to pronounce the names of countries even before I could read about them for myself. I think my parents were glad to have something to keep me busy!
Maps help us to see the big picture. We see where things are in relation to one another. Sometimes in therapy we approach problem solving by literally mapping out all the parts of an issue. This type of mapping can add insight for planning for the future in a more visible way. Timelines are another kind of mapping that put a complicated and a vague past into a more accessible mode.
One of the most exciting types of mapping today is occurring in neuroscience for studying the brain. This past week researchers published a new map of the brain with 100 new, previously unknown, regions. The lead researcher, Dr. Matthew Glasser, is from our state’s own Washington University School of Medicine, in St. Louis. Dr. Glasser says that the new map should be thought of as “version 1.0.”
This study is especially important as we passionately look for answers in the issues of autism, schizophrenia, PTSD, and Alzheimer’s research. Computers are being used to understand better not only the regions of the brain, but the composition of different regions, including levels of myelin that insulate brain neurons.
One region being studied, called “55b” shows unusual activities when people are listening to stories.” In our experience, we often know what works, like embedding truths in stories. The new mapping research helps us to understand why and how that happens and what can get in the way of optimal functioning.
Maps are about gaining perspective and understanding how the pieces are related to the whole. Our treatments and interventions can be better guided when we have access to reliable maps.