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  1. R T A Barker
  1. Cambridge Centre for Brain Repair and Department of Neurology, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 2PY, UK;

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    Quoting from the website, “BrainInfo is a website that helps one identify structures in the brain and provides many different kinds of information about each structure. It consists of three basic knowledge bases: Neuro Names, which provides the index to brain structures and narrative information about them; the Template Atlas, which shows the structures that are found in the primate brain; and NeuroMaps, a set of several hundred overlays that will show the location of different kinds of information that have been mapped to the standard background maps (templates) of the Atlas. Information about brain structures in other species, particularly the human, is provided by links to other websites.”

    This website has been set up to help negotiate the user through the adult mammalian brain. This is achieved using a series of different selection criteria, such that on entering the area of brain that you are interested in, you can then explore a whole range of different aspects of that structure. This includes its location using a battery of different pictures including radiological and anatomical figures, which are enormously helpful for clinicians and neuroscientists alike given the links to human brain images. Indeed ones neuroanatomical quest can be further expanded to explore the cell types within the area of interest and even the receptors that are expressed on these cells. In addition the site also provides all the different nomenclatures that may be used to describe that structure or parts of it and, finally, you can then link across to PubMed for references related to that structure.

    Thus, this website is an extremely powerful resource, but as with many such sites the problem can be in trying to extract the major, significant “bytes” of information. Therefore, most of us would know the major afferent and efferent connections of structures within the CNS, which are useful for our clinical and scientific work, without needing to know the finer details. So, for example, the substantia nigra has a series of well known connections with the striatum, pallidum, superior colliculus, and the thalamus, which allows us to understand crudely its role in basal ganglia function. However, the comprehensive nature of the data presented on this website lists 16 confirmed afferent and 21 efferent projections of the substantia nigra along with a range of further inferred connections! To the novice this is rather overwhelming and baffling, and so to make sense of this one often needs to be educated by less rigorous neuroanatomical accounts that are found in standard neuroscience textbooks.

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    Nevertheless, this site is very helpful in locating those areas that passed by you during neuroanatomy lectures and practicals, while allowing the specialist to investigate in great detail the brain region and even the cell of interest. All this information is presented in a user friendly fashion with a mass of references for those wanting confirmation of the origin of the data as well as further reading. Indeed, you even have the capacity to add your own comments and with that you can add even more relevant references! Overall this is a very useful website to know about and I have certainly added it to my bookmark list.