Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Simple Minds

First complete map of an entire region of the fruit fly brain – connecting the cells to behaviours

10 November 2020

Simple Minds

The human brain, with billions of components and connections, is a unique wonder more complex than we can comprehend. Other animal brains are remarkably similar, even in much simpler organisms like fruit flies. With just a fraction of the complexity, the fruit fly brain accomplishes many key activities essential for life, so is a useful model to study the fundamentals of our own brain. Much is already known, but details on each region’s overall activity are unclear because most studies have focussed on isolated areas. A new approach has created a complete map of the central region, of 24,000 neurons, by combining countless microscopically-thin slices to generate a 3D guide (pictured, with each cell coloured artificially). The researchers have shared this ‘connectome’ freely online, hoping other teams will use the model to reveal secrets that might translate to our own brain, explaining how and why things sometimes go wrong.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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