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Brain Dense

Imaging the intricate network of cells in the brain's cerebral cortex

07 January 2020

Brain Dense

Trying to untangle sets of Christmas lights can feel impossible. So imagine trying to do the same with millions of interweaved, microscopic brain cells. The human brain is one of the most complex structures in the world, and untangling its dense contents has long been an unattainable goal for researchers trying to unpick its secrets and understand how diseases take hold. A new approach has used automated image analysis to map the intricate connections in a part of tissue from the cerebral cortex, the outer layer of the brain. The reconstruction, pictured, contains over 34,000 brain cells and their long protruding axons. This approach to laying out the precise connections between brain cells could next be applied to tissue from other areas of the brain, or those suffering from disease, which could ultimately reveal previously hidden details of what goes wrong, and guide the way to treating it.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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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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