3d-map-of-brainScientists at Harvard University managed to explore the interior of the brain using new, hi-tech imaging methods.

With the help of MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), which provides three-dimensional color images, experts now can have the first real image of one hundred billion brain cells, as well as of their modus operandi, which can result in treatment of many brain disorders.

Over the years we have been studying the brain with the help of conventional imaging methods which could not provide us a real image of it. We could see only a shadow of its surface“, says professor Jan Wedeen referring to the new method of using three different colors to mark neurons before identifying the connections between them – a process that would take hundreds of thousands of years to complete using traditional methods.

The human brain is the most complex object in the universe. It keeps our memories and fears, and processing information from the environment allows us to see, hear, and feel. There is a whole range of disorders attributed to incorrect connections between neurons, but we do not have the means to detect them“, says Jeff Lichtman, who developed the new method which in the future will lead to the creation of a three-dimensional map of the brain.

Anna LeMind, B.A.

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    Daniel Berger


    you are mixing two completely different methods in this post. Unfortunately both methods are called ‘Connectomics’, which currently leads to a lot of confusion. Prof. Wedeen uses MRI, I believe more precisely Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI), to map fiber tracts between regions of the cortex in living human brains. This is where your colorful image comes from. This method has a resolution on the order of 1 mm and is therefore not powerful enough to resolve individual neurons, and can definitely not deliver a “real image of one hundred billion brain cells”.

    Jeff Lichtman and a few other labs, on the other hand, uses serial-sectioned electron microscopy to reconstruct very small volumes (less than 1 cubic millimeter) of fixed (mouse) brain at a resolution which is sufficient to see the axons, dendrites and synapses. This method, if developed further, can eventually lead to a reconstruction of a complete brain with all neurons and all their true connections, but we are currently far, far away from that goal. We have managed to fully structurally reconstruct volumes of around 10x10x10 micrometers, which takes around one man-month of human labor to do manually. And that is only 1/1000000 of a cubic millimeter, and is in fact so small that it doesn’t even contain a single neuron fully.

    So.. these developments are interesting and promising, but a LOT of work remains to be done before we can reconstruct all the connections of all the neurons in a brain! 🙂

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