Neuroscientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) have reached an important milestone, they have released the first installment of data from the 500 terabytes so far collected in their pathbreaking project to construct the first whole-brain wiring diagram of a vertebrate brain, that of the mouse.
The data consist of gigapixel images (each close to 1 billion pixels) of whole-brain sections that can be zoomed to show individual neurons and their processes, providing a “virtual microscope.”
The images are integrated with other data sources from the web, and are being made fully accessible to neuroscientists as well as interested members of the general public. This is pre-publication in the spirit of open science initiatives.
Each sampled brain is represented in about 500 images, each image showing an optical section through a 20 micron-thick slice of brain tissue. A multi-resolution viewer permits users to journey through each brain from “front” to “back,” and thus enables them to follow the pathways taken through three-dimensional brain space by tracer-labelled neuronal pathways. The tracers were picked to follow neuronal inputs and outputs of given brain regions.
“We’re executing a grid-based “shotgun” strategy for neuronal tract tracing that we first proposed a few years ago, and which I am pleased to note has gained acceptance elsewhere within the neuroscience community,” – says Partha P. Mitra, Ph.D., the Crick-Clay Professor of Biomathematics at CSHL and director of the Mouse Brain Architecture (MBA) Project. After the initial June 1 release, project data will be made public continuously on a monthly basis, Mitra says.
“Our project seeks to address a remarkable gap in our knowledge of the brain,” Mitra explains. “Our knowledge of how the brain is wired remains piecemeal and partial after a century of intense activity. Francis Crick and Ted Jones emphasized this in an article published in Naturenearly 20 years ago.
Yet to understand how the brain works (or fails to work in neurological or neuropsychiatric disease), it is critical that we understand this wiring diagram more fully.
Further, there remain fundamental questions about brain evolution that cannot be addressed without obtaining such wiring diagrams for the brains of different species.”
- Press Release is here
- Mouse Brain Architecture site is here
- Technical white paper is here
- A Proposal for a Coordinated Effort for the Determination of Brainwide Neuroanatomical Connectivity in Model Organisms at a Mesoscopic Scale, PLoS Computational Biology, 2009
Slicing a brain up for collecting the 500 terabytes data needed to construct the first whole-brain wiring diagram of a vertebrate brain.