Previous wiring diagrams, as the images are known, mapped the “connectors” for fruit fly and the human brain. One of the reasons why MICrONS is so well accepted is that the data set has the potential to improve a scientist’s understanding of the brain and perhaps help them treat brain disorders.
Venkatesh Murthy, a professor of molecular and cell biology at Harvard University who studies neural activity in mice but was not involved in the study, says the project gives him and other scientists a “bird’s eye view” of individual neurons interacting, offering extremely high-resolution “frozen frame” images. I can zoom.
R. Clay Reid, a senior researcher at the Allen Institute and another leading scientist at the MICrONS project, says that before the research was completed, he would have thought that this level of reconstruction was impossible.
Reid says that with machine learning, the process of converting two-dimensional brain wiring diagrams into three-dimensional models has become exponentially better. “It’s a ridiculous combination of a very old field and a new approach to it,” he says.
Reid compared the new images to the first maps of the human genome, because they provide basic knowledge for use by others. He imagines them helping others see structures and relationships within the brain that were previously invisible.
“I think this is, in many ways, a start,” Reid says. “This data and these reconstructions using AI can be used by anyone who has an Internet connection and a computer to ask a remarkable array of questions about the brain.”