Three-day imaging captures hi-res, cinematic view of fly brain | 1/17/2019 | Staff (Posted by) Level 4
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A new fly-through of the fly brain allows anyone to whizz past neurons and visit any of the 40 million synapses where neurons touch neuron. It's a super-resolution view of the complex network connections in the insect's brain that underlie behaviors ranging from feeding to mating.

What's unprecedented, however, is that this 3-D map over the whole fly brain, which shows details as small as 60 nanometers across, was captured in less than three days.

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While the level of detail is not quite as good as that obtained with an electron microscope, efforts to fully map the neurons and synapses of the fly brain with EM have taken 10 years and the efforts of dozens of people. The new map was obtained a thousand times faster by combining two state-of-the-art techniques, expansion microscopy and lattice light-sheet microscopy.

A fine-scale map of the complete neural network of the brain—the human brain but also that of the mouse and fly—has been a dream of neuroscientists for decades. With it, they could trace the connections between neurons to understand how the brain makes decisions. And by counting synapses, neuroscientists could judge the strength of neural connections, such as those responsible for memory.

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The new and faster whole-brain imaging technique will help scientists tease out the fly neural circuits that ultimately also underlie human brain functioning. And it works equally well for mapping the neural circuits in small chunks of the mouse brain, and potentially the human brain.

"You can spend years and years getting an EM image of one fly brain," said Nobel laureate Eric Betzig, who invented the lattice light-sheet microscope while at the Janelia Research Campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and is now a professor of molecular and cell biology and of physics at the University of California, Berkeley. "I can see us getting...
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