Seven ways of seeing how the brain works
Approaches can be psychological or neuroscientific, animal or human – or a mix
1. Psychological studies
Assessing people’s behaviour or responses under controlled experimental circumstances.
Example: Experiments exploring our approach to risk.
2. Functional imaging (eg functional magnetic resonance imaging, fMRI)
Measuring brain activity during particular tasks.
Example: Revealing which areas are active when we read and comprehend language.
3. EEG (electroencephalography)
Recording brain waves through the scalp, which give clues as to the timing, locality and type of brain function.
Example: Monitoring brain activity during sleep.
Assessing the impact of damage to specific parts of the brain.
Example: Damage to Broca’s area removes the ability to speak.
Studying the firing patterns of neurons and their response to different chemicals.
Example: Understanding the role of neurotransmitters in memory.
6. Animal studies
Studying links between genes, neurons, brain and behaviour in animals that can be genetically engineered.
Examples: Studying neuron function in the sea slug, or neural pathways controlling sexuality in the fruit fly.
Using computers to model the behaviour of neurons acting together.
Example: Modelling neural networks mimicking brain activity leading to epileptic seizures.Lead image:
David Foltz/Flickr CC BY NC