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Mapping the Brain, Neuron by Neuron

Neurological connections in the brain of a fruit fly.

A new computer-based technique is exploring uncharted territory in the fruit fly brain with cell-by-cell detail that can be built into networks for a detailed look at how neurons work together.

Credit: Hanchuan Peng

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) worked with an international team of neuroscientists to create a complete map, or connectome, of the learning and memory center of the fruit fly larva brain, a step toward mapping how all animal brains function.

The researchers performed a statistical analysis of the neuronal links that neuroscientists had found in the fruit fly larva brain via electron microscopy. The analysis uncovered patterns of connections among the six types of neurons that had previously been misread or were completely unknown, helping to better comprehend how this region of the fruit fly larva brain works.

The research concentrated on structural connections, excluding functional questions concerning how the links are associated with specific behaviors.

JHU professor Carey E. Priebe does not expect to see a complete synapse-level structural connectome for the human brain realized in his lifetime, but he says the new work is a step in moving the research further along.

From Johns Hopkins University
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