Posted December 18, 2012 by Dr. Henri Montandon in Uncategorized

Your own mouse brain

A few years ago I let slide a scanning electron microscope for sale on eBay for $800. I am glad I let it go. Dr. Partha Mitra and the good folks at MIT are presenting to the neuroscience community and the general public an atlas of the mouse brain sectioned in 20 micron slices. You can “focus” your browser to see the images at 100 micron magnification. Dr. Mitra writes,

The first installment of data has been released for the Mouse Brain Architecture Project. which aims to construct the whole-brain wiring diagram of mouse, at a “mesoscopic” scale corresponding to brain regions in classical neuroanatomy. The data just released – the first in what will be a regular series of releases – consists of gigapixel images of whole brain sections that can be zoomed to show individual neurons and their processes, a “virtual microscope”. The images are integrated with other data sources from the web as well as the literature, and are being made fully accessible to the scientific community as well as interested members of the general public.

Note that this atlas emphasizes connectivity. As another MIT wunderkind, Sebastian Seung, has written: Identity lies not in our genes, but in the connections between our brain cells.[1] Anterograde and retrograde tracers are used to determine the input and output structures, respectively. The 2-D images are reconstructed in 3-D, using registration algorithms to preserve 3-D spatial normalization among multiple samples from many mice.

A second project is text mining:

We have been working on two prototype systems for information extraction (IE) of knowledge related to brain architecture (including brain structure, genetic makeup, and disease) from a large text corpus. To date our corpus contains approximately 55,000 full-text journal articles.

Last but not least is a significant contribution towards unifying neuro-Babel into a commonly held language:

The Online Brain Atlas Reconciliation Tool (OBART) aims to provide a quantitative solution to the so-called neuroanatomical nomenclature problem by comparing overlap relations between regions defined as spatial entities in different digital human brain atlases.

A hearty THANK YOU seems in order to the many people who are hard at work making these data available, and also to the mice who sacrificed their lives for them. Having this degree of detail from the whole brain of a single species of fellow mammals invites theoretical neurobiologists to invent/discover the organizing principles which are science’s forte.

[1] Sebastian Seung  2010  CONNECTOME: HOW THE BRAIN’S WIRING MAKES US WHO WE ARE  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Dr. Henri Montandon