3D Brain Map Reveals Connections between Cells in Nano-Scale - Dream Health

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Saturday 8 August 2015

3D Brain Map Reveals Connections between Cells in Nano-Scale


Research – Abnormal Connection in Neurological Disorder

Researchers are expecting that exceptional images would enable the study of abnormal connection in neurological disorder like schizophrenia and depression and have created unprecedented high resolution map of the brain which indicates structures as tiny as those found in single nerve cells. They tend to develop the 3D map from a collection of images which are taken with nanoscale resolution with capability of picking out features measured in millionth of a millimetre.

 They intend using the tool in studying the abnormal connection between brain cells which underlie weakening neurological disorders in the case of depression and schizophrenia. A neurobiologist at Harvard University, Narayanan Kasthuri, who led the team behind the map, has said that `they were talking about imaging close to the level of a molecule’.

He along with his colleague Jeff Lichtman’s team had constructed a system which automatically parts a subject brain into thousands of thin sections and after staining the parts to pick out various tissues, an electron microscope had been trained to take images of each part. A computer then allots various colours to individual structures, knitting the images together in order to produce a 3D map.

One Pixel on MRI Equal to Billion Pixels in Images

The power of the system was portrayed by the researchers by imaging the area of brain of a mouse which was responsible for sensory perception and its result had been published in the journal Cell. Traditional brain imaging techniques like the MRI tend to be straightforwardto be used though it can only resolve features to about a millimetre. `BigBrain’, a German anatomical atlas, tends to resolve features of the human brain down to micrometres, much thinner than a human hair as well as nearly on a scale of individual cells.

Kasthuri’s tool by contrast developed nanoscale pictures of individual brain cells, together with their contents and their connections. He had stated that `one pixel on an MRI is equal to about a billion pixels in images’. In order to map the brain in such details usually involves an adjustment and thin parts of tissue could be imaged in high resolution, though in thicker sections or parts, the resolution tends to fall. Kasthuri resolved the problem by automating the process. The thin sections were imaged by the microscope and then stacked together.

Working on Machine Vision – Tracking Individual Neurons

The machines would be utilised in taking pictures of the brain after death and the team are expecting that by tracking neural trails they would be in a position to answer queries with regard to what a neurological disorder looks in the brain.

Kasthuri has commented that `if they could make a map of a brain with schizophrenia and compare it to one without schizophrenia, they could look for inappropriate connections that could contribute to the disorder. Maria Ron, emeritus professor of neuropsychiatry at University College London, however states that it would be difficult to use the system on large groups of patients and controls, to reveal much about the brain diseases. The efforts involved would also take great computing power.

Image of a mouse brain that is taken with the machine could develop billions of gigabytes of data and according to Kasthuri, is equivalent to billions of high definition movies that would create the largest dataset that has been collected. The team is said to be working on machine vision that utilises computers in tracking individual neurons through the brain to examine their connections. Kasthuri states that once they have the same in place, they can have probable showstopper.

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