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Complete atlas of the mammalian primary motor cortex

25 October 2021

Putting Heads Together

We share around 85% of our genes with mice and nearly 99% with chimps. Yet genes don’t tell the whole story – how similar are the cells and tissues built from these chemical blue-prints? A team of collaborating scientists are comparing the brains of mice (shown here), monkeys, and humans. They use several techniques, including patch-seq to carefully pinpoint and trace each tangled neuron in a brain region called the primary motor cortex which controls movement – here individual mouse neurons are highlighted in different colours. Patch-seq allows the scientists to probe each neuron’s connections, its electrical properties and which genes are 'switched on'. The idea is to reduce the brain to its pieces – its dozens of types of neurons – then reassemble its circuits virtually, learning how they work in the process. These brain maps will hopefully reveal how diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis may start with changes to a single cell.

Written by John Ankers

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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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