Researchers have gotten to the point at which they’re able to accurately map the full set of neuron pathways present in one section of the brain of a fruit fly. Gotta start simple – and as incredibly intricate as this section of brain looks here, that’s saying something seemingly incredible. This is the most intricate and massive map of a brain ever completed, and it’s called the “hemibrain.”
The hemibrain connectome, as one might refer to it, offers a “complete” look at neurons in the brain of a fruit fly. This most massive map of a brain ever produced was shared this week by scientists from Google and the Janelia Research Campus in Virginia. The connectome project team goes by the name FlyEM.
The region of the brain that’s mapped is not the ENTIRE fly brain – it’s just a very important section. “This region includes neurons involved in learning, navigation, smell, vision, and many other functions,” according to FlyEM. Google’s part in the creation of this map is described in great detail in the Google AI Blog.
“This was a big bet on something people thought was almost impossible to do,” said Google research scientist and former laboratory head at Janelia, Viren Jain. “This will be the first time that we can really have a nuanced look at the organization of a nervous system with 100,000 neurons on a synaptic scale.”
The FlyEM team have made the data shown in this map, as well as “all the tools necessary to use it” available to the public. They’ve made these tools and the data accessible and usable to the public for free, as of January 21, 2020.
Releases today include the following:
• Terabytes of raw data, proofread 3D reconstruction, and synaptic annotations
• The web-based tool neuPrint
• A download size-friendly compact representation of the connectome
• A pre-print with further details related to the production and analysis of the hemibrain connectome.
The brain is done – that’s what you see above. Now the team is expanding beyond the brain. They’ll be expanding to a complete connectome of the entire fly nervous system within the next two years.