Google assisted in this extremely high-resolution map of brain neurons

James Marshall
January 24, 2020

Researchers from Google and Janelia Research Campus in Virginia have unveiled the biggest high-resolution map of brain connectivity yet, known as a connectome. The mesmerizing threads of blue, yellow, purple and green represent thousands of brain cells and millions of connections found inside the brain of a fruit fly. The high-resolution map is a major milestone in the field of connectomics that makes use of detailed imaging techniques to "map physical pathways" of the brain. The team started out by cutting a fruit fly brain into extremely thin slices using a hot knife - and then imaging each slice under an electron microscope. Fruit flies' brains contain almost 100,000 neurons. Before now, the only animal to have its brain fully mapped was the C. elegans roundworm, which only has about 302 neurons.

Even after Google's incredible algorithms, the Janelia team still had to confirm the software's work.

Anyone can see and download the data, and there are papers both available and on the way detailing the work.

This high-resolution map, known as a "connectome", only makes up one-third of a fruit fly's brain but includes a large region involved in learning, navigation, smell and vision.

Now, although the brain can not accomplish a lot and only covers a portion of the fruit fly's brain, it does act as a large set of data for researchers and scientists wanting to get more insight around fruit flies and the way brain functions. However, it could prove to be a treasure trove of data for scientists looking to understand fruit flies in particular or brain functionality at large.

Furthermore, this map comprises "only" a quarter of the fruit fly's 100,000 neurons.

So, acknowledging this is an important moment goes without saying, however, it is but a stepping stone towards further research of a complex organ.

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