New Scanning Techniques Could Decode Brain Wiring

Scientists work to speed neuroimaging methods
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 19, 2007 11:32 PM CST
"The brain is essentially a computer that wires itself up during development and can rewire itself," says Sebastian Seung, a computational neuroscientist at MIT. "If we have a wiring diagram of the brain,...   (shutter stock)
camera-icon View 2 more images

(Newser) – An international team of researchers is investigating a new type of neuroimaging technique, called connectomics, that can make incredibly detailed "wiring diagrams" of the brain, Technology Review reports. The researchers cut nanometer-thin slices off of brain tissue and use an electron microscope to image each sliver, catching much more detail than the alternative practice of staining and imaging one system at a time.

The process is too slow to create human brain maps in any reasonable time frame, but the researchers are also working to speed up the process by programming computers to emulate human interpretation of the electron microscope images. So far they've been able to accelerate the process between 100-1000 fold, but they'll need it a million times faster to make brain-wide neural maps a reality.