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04 September 2015

Breaking Down Brains

The relationships between the different cellular objects which make up neural tissue in a human brain are largely unknown. To address this researchers have started to use electron microscopy as a technique to study neural tissue at nanometre resolution, managing to reconstruct a complete, but small, portion of a mouse neocortex – the part of a mammalian brain concerned with sensory information and conscious thought. Thousands of brain slices, each around 1 mm2, were studied and used to reconstruct a volume of brain tissue (as shown), which can be expanded to show all the cellular and sub-cellular components, such as axons and glia. More studies like this will be used to create an online database of information, providing insight into how the neural network is related to the physical properties of brain tissue, identifying any patterns which may correlate to psychological or development disorders.

Written by Helen Thomas

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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