This Incredible 3D Brain Map Shows The Brain In Unprecedented Detail

Posted on 31 July 2015

In the visually stunning project, a map of the brain with an unprecedented resolution has been produced which can reveal features at the nano-scale. The mapping system could be used to observe abnormal connections in neurological conditions at a new level of detail. 

3D reconstruction of all the cellular objects around two apical dendrites. Photograph: Kasthuri

3D reconstruction of all the cellular objects around two apical dendrites. Photograph: Kasthuri

“We’re talking about imaging close to the level of a molecule,” said Narayanan Kasthuri, a neurobiologist at Harvard University

Using a system which automatically slices brain tissue into thousands of thin segments, the team then stained the sections and placed them under an electron microscope. A computer program then merged the images together and coloured specific elements in order to produce these amazing 3D images. MRI scans are great, but resolution is around a millimetre and while other methods can get down to micrometres, this technique reaches a new depth. 

“One pixel on an MRI equals about a billion pixels in our images”

While other efforts have tended to focus on larger areas at the expense of detail, or detail at the expense of the larger picture, the automation combined with computer organisation enables high resolution of large neural structures. 

This technique works wonderfully on smaller areas but the computing power needed is staggering; studying just one mouse brain would take up billions of gigabytes. The system also requires tissue samples and would be limited to studying the brains of the deceased. With progress in computing power and storage and refinement however, the technique could prove beneficial at increasing understanding of intricate brain function and organisation. 

Read more at The Guardian 

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