A Map of the Brain of a Baby Fruit Fly

A Map of the Brain of a Baby Fruit Fly
Map of the Brain of a Juvenile Fruit Fly - The most surprising example of neurological mapping to date is this map of the brain of a fruit fly larva, containing 3.016 neurons and 58.000 synaptic connections.

Neuroscientists have been creating increasingly sophisticated neural maps since the 1970s. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University and Cambridge University reported this week that their 12-year project to map the brain of a young fruit fly was successful. Scientists hope the fly can shed light on the unsolved riddles of the human brain, as it shares similar genetic and biological underpinnings with humans.

If you want to grasp something as enormous and complex as the brain, it's best to start small—really small. Roughly the size of a poppy seed, the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) has a lifespan of less than two months. This is in keeping with its tiny size.

The brain is dazzlingly complex in all organisms, even these small and seemingly simple ones, so it took researchers years to develop a neurological map. But on Thursday, researchers from Cambridge and Johns Hopkins Universities reported that they had finally succeeded in their efforts by mapping every neuron and connections in a fruit fly larva's brain. This week, the journal Science published the team's research.

According to Joshua T. Vogelstein, a biomedical engineer at Johns Hopkins University, the mechanics of cognition must be understood before we can understand who we are and how we think. "And understanding how neurons connect with each other is key."

In addition, there are various neurons and connections to consider. 3.016 neurons had to be identified to complete this neurological map. But the total number of connections made by these neurons is 548.000, much less than that. In addition, they discovered 93 unique neurons, each with a unique structure, function and neurological relationship.

All of this may seem challenging, and it is. A brain had to be methodically divided into thousands of tissue samples over 12 years, imaged using high-resolution electron microscopy, and then reassembled neuron neuron.

These findings are the latest in a process that began almost 50 years ago with the first roundworm brain mapping efforts and was finally deemed successful in 2019. A fruit fly larva, unlike a roundworm, has roughly ten times more neurons and a higher level of overall neurological complexity. A roundworm has only 302 neurons.

While studying the inner workings of a fruit fly's brain may seem like nothing to do with the human mind, scientists chose this particular species not just because of its size or apparent simplicity, but because it resembled humans in its genetic makeup and basic biology. This map thus provides an ideal basis for investigating some of the myriad mysteries of the human mind.

According to Marta Zaltic, co-author of the study, “all brains are alike – networks of neurons that are all interconnected. All brains in all animals must perform a variety of complex functions, such as processing sensory data, learning, choosing actions, navigating their environment, and choosing food, among other things.

Several similar projects are under development. For example, FlyEm of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute is currently busy mapping the adult fruit fly, and mapping the mouse brain will likely represent the next step in this field of work. Considering that a mouse brain is about a million times larger than a fruit fly larva, this particular neurological mapping project will be absolutely enormous. Obviously, the complexity doesn't end there, considering that humans have 86 billion neurons.

Source: popularmechanics.com/science

Günceleme: 11/03/2023 13:39

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