The brain is undoubtedly the human body's most mysterious organ. After centuries of study, this pinky-grey bundle of neurons still regularly surprises scientists with new capabilities and pitfalls. Even today, researchers are trying to create more detailed maps of the brain in order to increase our understanding of it. While building a new atlas for the morphology and connections of the human brain and spinal cord, one neuroscientist found something remarkable.
Professor George Paxinos, a cartographer of the brain at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA), has claimed to have discovered a new “hidden” region in the human brain that’s not known to science: the Endorestiform Nucleus. The discovery of the Endorestiform Nucleus is detailed by Professor Paxinos in a new book titled Human Brainstem: Cytoarchitecture, Chemoarchitecture, Myeloarchitecture.
Professor Paxinos said that he suspected the region might have existed for over 30 years. However, he’s never had the means to definitively prove it.
Now, with the help of improved staining and imaging techniques, he’s been able to show that this a region of the brain is actually a distinct nucleus, functionally separate from the surrounding neighborhood of nerve fibers.
It can be found within the inferior cerebellar peduncle, a bundle of nerve fibers near the base of the skull that connects the spinal cord and the brain. This general area is typically associated with processing sensory and motor information together to finely tune things like our posture, balance, and subtle movements. Although the precise function of the Endorestiform Nucleus remains a mystery, Paxinos believes it could point to something profound.
“I can only guess as to its function, but given the part of the brain where it has been found, it might be involved in fine motor control,” Professor Paxinos said in a statement.
"The region is intriguing because it seems to be absent in the rhesus monkey and other animals that we have studied,” added Paxinos. “This region could be what makes humans unique besides our larger brain size.”
Speaking to Science Alert, he explained, “I cannot imagine a chimpanzee playing the guitar as dexterously as us, even if they liked to make music.”
Although they did not qualify the statement, NeuRa has also said the discovery could potentially help to "explore cures for diseases including Parkinson’s disease and motor neuron disease."
If you thought that this discovery of a hidden area in the brain was remarkable, researchers last year stumbled upon an entirely new organ in the human body.