Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne's Blue Brain Project (BBP) has identified key principles that determine synapse-scale connectivity by virtually reconstructing a cortical microcircuit and comparing it to a mammalian sample, making it possible to predict the locations of synapses in the neocortex.
"This is a major breakthrough, because it would otherwise take decades, if not centuries, to map the location of each synapse in the brain and it also makes it so much easier now to build accurate models," says BBP researcher Henry Markram.
The researchers found that the locations on their virtual model matched that of synapses found in the equivalent real-brain circuit with an accuracy of up to 95 percent. They say the discovery means that neurons grow as independently as possible and form synapses where they randomly bump into each other. Using this research, the Blue Brain team can now make a near perfect prediction of the locations of all the synapses formed inside the circuit.
The discovery helps explain why the brain can withstand damage and indicates that the positions of synapses in all brains of the same species are more similar than different, according to the researchers.
From Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne
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