Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

First realistic 3-D reconstruction of a brain circuit

Date:
December 13, 2011
Source:
Max Planck Florida Institute
Summary:
Researchers report that, using a conceptually new approach and state-of-the-art research tools, they have created the first realistic three-dimensional diagram of a thalamocortical column in the rodent brain. This is the first step toward creating a complete computer model of the brain, and may ultimately lead to an understanding of how the brain computes and how it goes awry in disease.

Growth of nerve cells.
Credit: Image courtesy of Max Planck Florida Institute

Researchers from the lab of Nobel laureate Bert Sakmann, MD, PhD at the Max Planck Florida Institute (MPFI) are reporting that, using a conceptually new approach and state-of-the-art research tools, they have created the first realistic three-dimensional diagram of a thalamocortical column in the rodent brain. A vertically organized series of connected neurons that form a brain circuit, the cortical column is considered the elementary building block of the cortex, the part of the brain that is responsible for many of its higher functions.

This achievement is the first step toward creating a complete computer model of the brain, and may ultimately lead to an understanding of how the brain computes and how it goes awry in neurological, neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders. The study is published online in the journal Cerebral Cortex.

"This is the first complete 3D reconstruction of a realistic model of a cortical column," said Marcel Oberlaender, PhD, first author on the paper. "This is the first time that we have been able to relate the structure and function of individual neurons in a live, awake animal, using complete 3D reconstructions of axons and dendrites. By creating this model, we hope to begin understanding how the brain processes sensory information and how this leads to specific behaviors."

The electrically excitable axon extends from the body of the neuron (brain cell) and often gives rise to many smaller branches before ending at nerve terminals. Dendrites extend from the neuron cell body and receive messages from other neurons.

In addition to recreating the structure of the cortical column, the study also sheds significant light on the function of its constituent neurons, and the relationship between their functionality and structure. In looking at neurons' response to sensory stimulation, the researchers discovered that sensory-evoked activity in some of the cells can be directly correlated with their structure and connectivity, which marks a first step toward understanding basic organizational principles of the brain.

Working with both awake and anesthetized rats, and also examining stained brain slices, the neuroscientists used sophisticated new light microscopy as well as custom designed tools to examine 15,000 neurons of nine identified cell types. Using a painstaking, six-step process, the researchers identified and reconstructed the column's constituent parts using sophisticated software and a range of other new state-of-the-art tools and processes.

Described in a related paper co-authored by Drs. Sakmann and Oberlaender, these new methods, which were developed in part at the Max Planck Florida Institute, allow researchers, for the first time, to simulate electrical signaling in a computer model at subcellular and millisecond resolution.

"We can now quantify the number of neurons of each cell type, their three-dimensional structure, connectivity within these networks, and response to sensory stimulation, in both an anesthetized and awake animal," said Dr. Oberlaender. "Such a quantitative assessment of cortical structure and function is unprecedented and marks a milestone for future studies on mechanistic principles that may underlie signal flow in the brain, during such functions as decision making."

Dr. Oberlaender is part of the Max Planck Florida Institute's Digital Neuroanatomy group, led by Dr. Bert Sakmann. The group focuses on the functional anatomy of circuits in the cerebral cortex that form the basis of simple behaviors (e.g. decision making). One of the group's most significant efforts is a program dedicated to obtaining a three-dimensional map of the rodent brain. This work will provide insight into the functional architecture of entire cortical areas, and will lay the foundation for future studies on degenerative brain diseases, such as Alzheimer's.

Dr. Oberlaender and Dr. Christiaan de Kock contributed equally to this work. Dr. de Kock is with the Neuroscience Campus Amsterdam, VU University Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The research team also included scientists from Max Planck Institute for Medical Research (Heidelberg, Germany), Columbia University and Zuse Institute (Berlin).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Max Planck Florida Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Max Planck Florida Institute. "First realistic 3-D reconstruction of a brain circuit." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 December 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111207132914.htm>.
Max Planck Florida Institute. (2011, December 13). First realistic 3-D reconstruction of a brain circuit. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111207132914.htm
Max Planck Florida Institute. "First realistic 3-D reconstruction of a brain circuit." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111207132914.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Orthodontist Mom Jennifer Salzer on the Best Time for Braces

Orthodontist Mom Jennifer Salzer on the Best Time for Braces

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) Is your child ready? Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.S. Issues Ebola Travel Restrictions, Are Visa Bans Next?

U.S. Issues Ebola Travel Restrictions, Are Visa Bans Next?

Newsy (Oct. 22, 2014) Now that the U.S. is restricting travel from West Africa, some are dropping questions about a travel ban and instead asking about visa bans. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
US to Track Everyone Coming from Ebola Nations

US to Track Everyone Coming from Ebola Nations

AP (Oct. 22, 2014) Stepping up their vigilance against Ebola, federal authorities said Wednesday that everyone traveling into the US from Ebola-stricken nations will be monitored for symptoms for 21 days. (Oct. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctors Help Paralysed Man Walk Again, Patient in Disbelief

Doctors Help Paralysed Man Walk Again, Patient in Disbelief

AFP (Oct. 22, 2014) Polish doctors describe how they helped a paralysed man walk again, with the patient in disbelief at the return of sensation to his legs. Duration: 1:04 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins