How much of the development of our brain's cortex depends on it being able to talk with other parts of the brain and body? Apparently, not as much as had been thought. Zhou et al. have used a mouse mutant in which the neocortex had been disconnected from the rest of the brain in order to analyze the development of the surface map (which might be compared to a geopolitical map supported by an infrastructure of shipping, communication, and regulatory networks). In normal mice, a few weeks of postnatal development complete the brain's organization; the mutant mice survive during this phase but die at about 3 weeks of age. During these weeks, the mutant mice, despite having disconnected brains, display a variety of behaviors: eating, drinking, walking, and swimming. Thus, "protomap" formation, namely cortical lamination and formation of areas, proceed normally in absence of extrinsic connections, but survival of projection neurons and acquisition of mature morphological and some electrophysiological features depend on the establishment of normal cortical–subcortical relationships.