Sunday, February 15, 2009

the broccoli brain

scientists at Harvard and MIT have created a depiction of a complete neural circuit diagram, or "connectome", of the part of a mouse's brain that controls the muscle used to move the mouse's ears. To make this mapping possible, the mice were genetically modified so that their motor neurons would be fluorescent when active, and hence be perceivable through a microscope. This way, the scientists unraveled the structure of the connectome at a rate of half a millimeter per hour. The visualizations showed that there are significant differences between the same connectomes in the right and left hemisphere, and that the length of axons in the brain is not optimized at all to occupy as little space as possible. I think it's fascinating how these visualizations show that our internal landscape can be just as beautiful as ones we perceive out there.

Here's a link to the original paper:

Lu et al. - The Interscutularis Muscle Connectome

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