3D model of a nerve terminal shows the distribution of 300,000 individual protein molecules involved in neurotransmitter recycling.
3D reconstruction of nerve cell connections in the mouse retina. From Kim, et al. (2014). The crowdsourced wiring diagram may have revealed a time-delay neural network that makes certain cells sensitive to motion in specific directions.
Computer-generated reconstruction of three pyramidal neurons, showing differences in the distribution of myelin (shown in white) along their axons. Daniel Berger/ Giulio Tomassy/ Harvard University.
"Like the entomologist in search of colourful butterflies, my attention has chased in the gardens of the grey matter cells with delicate and elegant shapes, the mysterious butterflies of the soul whose beating of wings may one day reveal to us the secrets of the mind" - Cajal.
Pyramidal neurons and their dendrites visualised with patch clamp fluorescence microscopy. Alexandre William Moreau/ Institute of Neurology/ Nikon Small World Competition.
Membrane-labelled subset of neurons in the brain of a living zebrafish imaged with an adaptive optics microscope in two-photon excitation mode. Eric Betzig Lab, Janelia Farm Research Campus.
A top-down 3D view of the cortico-connections originating from multiple distinct cortical areas of the mouse brain, visualized as virtual tractography using Allen Institute Brain Explorer software. From Oh, et al. (2014).
In celebration of Brain Awareness Week, here’re pictures from the Brain Tumor Registry at the Harvey Cushing Center!
Harvey Cushing (Yale class of 1891, Sterling Professor of Medicine in Neurology) was an obsessive cataloger, and the Cushing Brain Tumor Registry, is an immense archive of over 2,200 case studies which includes whole human brain and tumor specimens, microscopic slides, journal notes, and 15,000 photographic negatives dating from the late 1800s to 1936.
The Registry is a unique resource that documents the history of neurological medicine from its beginning.
Photos: Terry Dagradi
Brain grenade resin figure by Emilio Garcia.
Brains made of fruit and toothpaste by Kyle Bean.
Pseudo-colour scanning electron micrograph showing an axon terminal broken open to reveal synaptic vesicles (blue and orange). Tina Carvalho/ NIH-NIGMS.
Seeing the Brain With New CLARITY
A new brain imaging technique called CLARITY allows neural structures to be reconstructed in three dimensions better than ever before. It does so by turning the brain “transparent”.
Truly understanding the inner workings of the brain means studying not only how individual neurons function, but also how they are wired together. Even with techniques like the beautiful “brainbow”, untangling spaghetti-like long-range connections has proven difficult.
Stanford University neuroscientists have taken a step in that direction with their new CLARITY method. Neurons and other cells are normally labeled by sticking fluorescent tags on various proteins and other molecules that a researcher wants to study. That way we can literally see where and how they function. But looking into a three-dimensional brain is like peering into murky water: the fatty cell membranes and neuron sheaths just get in the way.
The Stanford researchers immobilized these mouse brains in a gel, then washed away all the murky muck. This left all the connections and proteins in their right place, free to be labeled in a clear block of brain Jell-O.
For more: Head over to Nature News to read more, and be sure to watch their great, detailed video to find out more about how it was done. If you’re interested, here’s the research paper in this week’s Nature.