Scientists straighten out a tangle of brain cells

Image: Brain neurons
This graphic traces a network of cortical neurons from a trillions of bytes’ worth of 3-D data. Some of the neurons are color-coded according to their activity patterns in the living brain. (Credit: Clay Reid, Allen Institute; Wei-Chung Lee, Harvard Medical School; Sam Ingersoll, graphic artist)

Scientists say they’ve analyzed trillions of bytes’ worth of mapping data from the brain of a mouse to trace the connections within a tangle of neurons that’s smaller than a pinhead.

The results, published today in the journal Nature, mark a preliminary step toward an even more ambitious neuron-mapping project called MICrONS.

“This is the culmination of a research program that began almost 10 years ago,” study co-author R. Clay Reid, senior investigator at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, said in a news release. “Brain networks are too large and complex to understand piecemeal, so we used high-throughput techniques to collect huge data sets of brain activity and brain wiring.”

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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