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How to Map a Fly Brain in 20 Million Easy Steps

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A color-enhanced scanning electron micrograph of Drosophila melanogaster, the common fruit fly.

An enormous new analysis of the wiring of the fruit fly brain is a milestone for the young field of modern connectomics, researchers say.

Credit: David Scharf/Science Source

Scientists at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Research Campus and Google have been mapping the fruit fly brain connectome since 2014.

The researchers initially segmented the fly's brain and imaged the slices using focused-ion beam scanning electron microscopy, then re-stitched the millions of images into a three-dimensional volume.

Google researchers used machine learning algorithms to identify each individual neuron and trace its branches, then the Janelia team pinpointed the synapses and vetted and refined the connectivity diagrams.

Analysis enabled the researchers to identify many new neuron types and to locate synapses that appear to help the insect navigate.

The freely available online connectome includes roughly 25,000 neurons and 20 million synapses.

Rockefeller University's Cori Bargmann called the project "a tremendous step toward the goal of working out the connectivity of the brain."

From The New York Times
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Abstracts Copyright © 2021 SmithBucklin, Washington, DC, USA


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