Google and Harvard Map a Tiny Piece of the Human Brain With Extreme Precision

Most detailed map of a cubic millimeter of the human brain.

Our brains are like a jungle, writes Shelly Fan at Singularity Hub:

Fan reports that “scientists just published the most detailed map of a cubic millimeter of the human brain. Smaller than a grain of rice, the mapped section of brain includes over 57,000 cells, 230 millimeters of blood vessels, and 150 million synapses. The project, a collaboration between Harvard and Google, is looking to accelerate connectomics—the study of how neurons are wired together—over a much larger scale.”

According to Fan, “Neuron branches crisscross regions, forming networks that process perception, memories, and even consciousness. Blood vessels tightly wrap around these branches to provide nutrients and energy. Other brain cell types form intricate connections with neurons, support the brain’s immune function, and fine-tune neural network connections.”

She adds, “In biology, structure determines function. Like tracing wires of a computer, mapping components of the brain and their connections can improve our understanding of how the brain works—and when and why it goes wrong. A brain map that charts the jungle inside our heads could help us tackle some of the most perplexing neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, and decipher the origins of emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.”

She further adds: “Aided by machine learning tools from Google Research, the Harvard team traced neurons, blood vessels, and other brain cells at nanoscale levels. The images revealed previously unknown quirks in the human brain—including mysterious tangles in neuron wiring and neurons that connect through multiple “contacts” to other cells. Overall, the dataset incorporates a massive 1.4 petabytes of information—roughly the storage amount of a thousand high-end laptops—and is free to explore.”

More here.

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