Explore the Human Brain

The human brain is composed of two distinct types of tissue: grey matter and white matter. Learn about each tissue type and their major subdivisions through 3D interactive visualizations. Click the buttons below to view 80 cortical areas (grey matter) and 20 major white matter tracts!

Grey Matter White Matter

For the best experience, please open these visualizations one at a time using a web browser (chrome or firefox recommended) on a computer. Please close out each visualization before viewing the next one.

Grey Matter

The grey matter contains the bodies, axon terminals, and dendrites of the brain cells, and it is where all of the higher mental processing occurs. The grey matter is what is typically depicted when you see a picture or icon of a brain, as it is primarily located around the outside. This outermost layer of the brain is also referred to as the cerebral cortex.

The cerebral cortex is subdivided into 4 major lobes: Frontal, Parietal, Occipital and Temporal. These lobes are further subdivided into smaller cortical areas or regions based on function and morphology.

If you click on the Grey Matter button above, you can examine the subdivisions of the cerebral cortex and other subcortical regions of the brain in 3D.

White Matter

The white matter contains the axons of the brain cells and forms the internal portion of the brain. The axons are what connect the different grey matter regions together. You can think of the grey matter as the 'computers' of the brain, while the white matter is made up of all the 'cables' that connect the computers, allowing them to send data and interact.

The white matter can be subdivided into individual tracts based on the grey matter regions the axons are connecting. These tracts are also grouped by the types of regions they connect. Association tracts connect different regions within the same hemisphere of the brain. Projection tracts extend vertically between superior and inferior brain areas and the spinal cord. These tracts carry information from the brain to the rest of the body. Commissural tracts cross between brain hemispheres, connecting the corresponding lobes of each side.

If you click on the White Matter button above, you can examine 20 of the major white matter tracts of the brain in 3D.


These 3D interactive visualizations were built using Three.js and Blender.

The data shown here is from a single individual from the public data released by The Human Connectome Project. All data processing was done using the open source services at brainlife.io.

The grey matter 3D visualization is displaying 3D surfaces from Freesurfer's aparc+aseg segmentation. Code for translating the labels from the aparc+aseg.mgz file into individual 3D surfaces can be found here.

The white matter 3D visualization was created by processing diffusion MRI data using Vistasoft, MRtrix, and AFQ.


This interactive web application was created by Indiana University graduate student Lindsey Kitchell. Learn more about her and her research on her personal page, or follow her on Instagram and Twitter.