Google Making More Maps: Brains of the Animals

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Scientists has produced the most quality-detailed 3D map of brain connectivity for any animal to date, in this case, sharing a model of a fruit fly’s brain.

Published by a joint-partnership of scientists from Google and FlyEM team from Janelia Research Campus, Virginia, the 3D model displays nearly 20 million synapses linking 25,000 neurons in a fruit fly’s brain. The fruit fly possesses a brain similarly the size of a nymph tick in which the scientists decided to map one-third of it or roughly a third of a human hair’s width. Focusing only to a specific segment, the hemibrain is what scientists are most interested in studying, in which it includes certain circuits that control learning, memory, and key fly behaviors.

Due to its simple structure yet displays a side of complex behaviours (it has courtship dances), fruit-fly brain became a classic favorite among  connectomics experts. So far, only the roundworm C. elegans, has had its brain completely mapped in this way.

It is still very far off the distance for the human brain pathways to be mapped, as it is vastly more complex, containing a nervous wreak of 86 billion neurons.

“The amount of time between a good technology being seeded, and doing actual science using that technology is often approximately 15 years. Now it’s 15 years later and we can start doing science,” said Joshua Vogelstein, a biomedical engineer and co-founder of the Open Connectome Project.

According to The Verge, the map was considered to be the an important stage of development for connectomics, a realm of technology utilizing advanced imaging techniques to trace the brain’s physical pathways.

The connectome required advances in imaging, segmentation (by the Connectomics Group at Google), and proofreading and analysis software.

Making the model requires beyond simple labor, but the effort done by these fellow scientists and researchers could be one of the forerunners of breakthrough in the study of connectomics.

The entire data regarding the findings along with a pre-print paper have been made public and uploaded online, with its completion to be published soon within the coming fortnights. The data is also available for anyone to see in actuality and to be downloaded by courtesy of the Google and the FlyEM team.