The world’s first “map” of the insect brain was drawn

This is the first-ever “map” of the insect brain, showing every neuron in the brain of fruit fly larvae and how they are connected together.

Systems neuroscientists Marta Zlatic and Albert Cardona collaborated with Johns Hopkins University professors Carey E. Priebe and Joshua T. Vogelstein to complete the groundbreaking study, which was published March 10 in Science.

Connectomes of the brains of drosophila larvae.    Image source: Zlatic

An organism’s nervous system, including the brain, is made up of neurons that are connected to each other by synapses. Information in the form of chemicals is transmitted from one neuron to another through these contact points.

“All brains are similar – they are all interconnected networks of neurons – and the brains of all species must perform many complex behaviors: they all need to process sensory information, learn, choose actions, navigate the environment, choose food, identify their kind, escape predators, etc.” Introduction to Zlatic.

“The way brain circuits are structured affects the brain’s computing power. But neuroscience doesn’t have circuit diagrams in most cases. Without knowing the structure of the brain, we can only guess how the calculation is implemented. But now, we have access to the mechanism by which the brain works. Zlatic said.

She added that current technology is not advanced enough to map the connectomes of higher animals such as large mammals.

To construct images of fruit fly larval connectomes, the team scanned thousands of brain slices of fruit fly larvae using high-resolution electron microscopy. The resulting images reconstruct the brain map of the fruit fly and painstakingly annotate the connections between neurons. In addition to mapping 3,016 neurons, they also mapped an incredible 548,000 synapses.

The researchers also developed computational tools to identify possible information flow paths and different types of circuit patterns in the insect’s brain. They found that some structural features were identical to state-of-the-art deep learning architectures.

“The most challenging aspect of this work is understanding and interpreting what we see. We are dealing with a complex neural circuit with many structures. In collaboration with the Priebe and Vogestein teams, we developed computational tools to extract and predict relevant loop motivations from structures. By comparing this biological system, we may also inspire better artificial networks. Zlatic said.

Jo Latimer, Head of Neuroscience and Mental Health at the UK Medical Research Council, commented: “This is an exciting and important piece of work. Not only did they map every neuron in the insect’s brain, they figured out how each neuron was connected. This is a big step forward in addressing the key question of how the brain works, particularly how signals move through neurons and synapses, leading to behavior, and this detailed understanding may help with future therapeutic interventions. (Source: Zhang Qingdan, China Science News)

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