A bright and beautiful brain map of a tiny fruit fly makes it possible to see 20 million synapses that bind 25 million neurons. On a 3D map you can only see a quarter of the brain of a fruit fly. This model is an important piece of work in the field of connectomics – an area of neuroscience that examines the structural connections of the brain. Specialists from the research campus of Google and Janelia in Virginia can now create large and detailed brain maps of all animals. It should be noted that today the brain of the roundworm C. elegans is completely shown. Detailed information on the results of the work will be published on the Janelia website.
What is connectivity?
Connectomy aims to understand how the structure of the brain is connected to neurology and has an ambiguous reputation in the world of science. Connecticom critics believe that over two decades of research have not revealed a single major discovery. However, the proponents are convinced that it enables you to associate a particular behavior of organisms with the physical parts of the brain. Despite differing opinions, a map will help scientists better understand the fruit fly's nervous system.
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According to Popular Science, Google's 3D model can be a small but significant step in understanding the relationships in our own minds. However, such 3D maps of the human brain are unlikely to appear in the near future. The fact is that trying to create such a map today requires an unimaginable amount of data. In addition, studies of the human brain depend on differences between people.
However, the brain model of the fruit fly is a masterpiece. The Janelia team has been working on improving the prototype for more than a decade before joining the Google Connectomics team in 2014. Researchers have developed new technological methods to dye the brain of a fly and cut it into pieces 20 microns thick, which is one third the width of a human hair. Then they scanned it with an electron microscope. The work took two years to investigate the route of each 20 million synapse. It should also be noted that fruit flies are known to have complex behaviors, including mating dances.
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With the publication of 3D brain maps, Google and Janelia have made data on their work and coding available to the public. These open source materials reflect a broader trend in science that will have a positive impact on further research. The developers of this amazing map also hope that scientists can create similar maps for a variety of animals in the future. And one day a detailed map of the most complex organ in the human body.