New Software Interprets Brain Cells

Edited by walterp on . Posted in Medicine

Researchers at the Heidelberg-based Max Planck Institute have developed new software that can interpret the vast network of brain cells swiftly and accurately.

The human brain is a fiendishly complex network of 70 billion cells called neurons. Their tentacles stretch thousands of kilometres wrapped in a tiny package just weighing 1,300 grams. Mapping this vast network posed insurmountable challenge to scientists.

But researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research, Germany, have developed a method for tackling the mammoth task. Moritz Helmstaedter, Kevin L. Briggman and Winfried Denk have now successfully tested this procedure by designing two new computer programs, KNOSSOS and RESCOP.

'Tracing the connections in the brain is at least as hard as finding your way out of a mythological labyrinth', explains Helmstaedter. They worked with a group of over 70 students to map a network of more than 100 neurons.

Their softwares map neurons faster and more accurately than previous methods, according to a statement from the institute. KNOSSOS, named after a Greek legendary palace renowned for its elaborate labyrinth, helped them trace the connections between the neurons.

RESCOP summarized the results of several annotators to yield an overall picture. The connections between the cells are critical for brain function, so neuroscientists are keen to understand the structure of these circuits – the connectome – and to reconstruct it in a 3D map.

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