Incredible Whole Brain Cellular Mapping Achieved In Zebrafish

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Incredible Whole Brain Cellular Mapping Achieved In Zebrafish

Neuroscientists at Howard Hughes Medical Institute have mapped the activity of nearly all the neurons in a zebrafish brain at cellular resolution in near real-time. The research represents signficant implications for neuroscience research and projects like the proposed Brain Activity Map (BAM).
Nature Methods is reporting that Misha Ahrens and Philipp Keller from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Farm Research Campus used high-speed light sheet microscopy to image the activity of 80% of the neurons in the brain of a fish larva at speeds of a whole brain every 1.3 seconds.

Video of the research is available from the Nature article here.

This ostensibly represents the first technology that achieves whole brain imaging of a vertebrate brain at cellular resolution with speeds that get close to actual neurological activity patterns.

The paper comes out at a time when much is being discussed and written about mapping brain activity at the cellular level. This is one of the main proposals of the Brain Activity Map (BAM)—a project that is being discussed at the White House and could be NIH’s next ‘big science’ project for the next 10-15 years.

The details of BAM’s exact goals and a clear roadmap and timeline to achieve them have yet to be presented, but from what its proponents have described in a recent Science paper the main aspiration of the project is to understand the microscale function of single neurons and the macroscale activity of the human brain.

Zebrafish brain mapping

The study authors saw correlated activity patterns in the zebrafish brains at the cellular level that spanned large areas that points to the existence of broadly distributed functional circuits.

The next steps will be to determine the causal role that these circuits play in behavior — something that will require improvements in the methods for 3D optogenetics, Metagora suggested.

Obtaining the detailed anatomical map of these circuits will also be key to understand the brain’s organization at its deepest level.

SOURCE  Nature, Methagora

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