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How to get a complete understanding of the brain

May. 14, 2024.
1 min. read Interactions

AI-enhanced connectomics

About the Writer

Amara Angelica

174.38865 MPXR

Electronics engineer and inventor

Six layers of excitatory neurons color-coded by depth (credit: Google Research and Lichtman Lab)

It starts with zooming into the tiniest-visible subcellular level of the brain: a cubic millimeter (about the size of a grain of rice) of human temporal cortex (located on the right and left side of the your brain, near your temples).

The Harvard and Google researchers could see 57,000 cells, 230 millimeters of blood vessels, and 150 million synapses—1,400 terabytes of data in vivid detail for the first time, they report in the journal Science.

A complete map of the mouse brain

Their ultimate goal, supported by the National Institutes of Health BRAIN Initiative: create a high-resolution map of a whole mouse brain’s neural wiring—about 1,000 times the amount of data.

A Harvard team led by Jeff Lichtman, the Jeremy R. Knowles Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology and newly appointed dean of science, has co-created with Google researchers the largest synaptic-resolution, 3D reconstruction of a piece of human brain to date, showing each cell.

Lichtman’s field is “connectomics,” which seeks to create comprehensive catalogues of brain structure, down to individual cells and wiring. Such completed maps would light the way toward new insights into brain function and disease, about which scientists still know very little.

AI-enhanced

Google’s state-of-the-art AI algorithms take it a step forward, allowing for reconstruction and mapping of brain tissue in three dimensions. The team has also developed a suite of publicly available tools that researchers can use to examine and annotate the connectome.

Next: the team will tackle the mouse hippocampal formation, which is important to neuroscience for its role in memory and neurological disease.

Citation: Alexander Shapson-Coe et al. (21 authors). 10 May 2024. A petavoxel fragment of human cerebral cortex reconstructed at nanoscale resolution. Vol 384, Issue 6696. Science. https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.adk4858

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