The 'average brain' myth bites the dust
It is increasingly clear that mankind is only beginning to understand how different we human beings — as individuals — actually are.
A 2002 study by UC Santa Barbara neuroscientist Michael Miller is a prime example. Intent on identifying the location in the human brain of verbal memory, Miller recruited 16 individuals to lie down in an fMRI brain scanner and be shown series of words. Whenever they recognized a word from a previous series, they were to press a button. At that point, the machine scanned the individual’s brain and created a digital “map” of its activity.
After all the participants were processed, Miller averaged together all the brain maps, as neuroscientists have long done, in order to generate a map of the “average brain” during a retrieval of verbal memory.
However, when the neuroscientist more closely examined the individual brain maps before him, he noticed that none of them actually resembled the composite, “average,” brain map. Moreover, the differences were not subtle, but extensive.
And when Miller brought back many of the original testees and subjected them again to the exact same procedures, the differences held up.
It turns out that such extensive differences between human brains aren’t limited to verbal memory, writes Todd Rose, director of the Mind, Brain & Education Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. the “average brain” myth biting the dust