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New Imaging Method Reveals Brain Connections

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the look-at-the-big-brain-on-you dept.

Medicine 95

An anonymous reader writes "Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine, applying a state-of-the-art imaging system to brain-tissue samples from mice, have been able to quickly and accurately locate and count the myriad connections between nerve cells in unprecedented detail, as well as to capture and catalog those connections' surprising variety. A typical healthy human brain contains about 200 billion nerve cells, or neurons, linked to one another via hundreds of trillions of tiny contacts called synapses. It is at these synapses that an electrical impulse traveling along one neuron is relayed to another, either enhancing or inhibiting the likelihood that the second nerve will fire an impulse of its own. One neuron may make as many as tens of thousands of synaptic contacts with other neurons, said Stephen Smith, PhD, professor of molecular and cellular physiology and senior author of a paper describing the study, to be published Nov. 18 in Neuron."

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needed (0, Offtopic)

jappleng (1805148) | more than 3 years ago | (#34262752)

I for one welcome our new brain scanning overlords!

Imaging method BUT.... (4, Informative)

AndyFewt (694753) | more than 3 years ago | (#34262756)

So they have this wonderful new imaging method that can show something unseen until now... and they have no pictures with the article.

Seriously?!

Re:Imaging method BUT.... (2, Funny)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#34262790)

Are you trying to say that Malpractice Insurance Ad isn't an accurate representation of what hundreds of thousands of Neurons look like?

Re:Imaging method BUT.... (2, Informative)

andrewcharles420 (1169635) | more than 3 years ago | (#34262992)

There are pictures in the journal article they cite: http://download.cell.com/neuron/pdf/PIIS089662731000766X.pdf?intermediate=true [cell.com]

Re:Imaging method BUT.... (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#34263870)

Ah, thank you. A real article. Not some chopped up incoherently distilled PR release written by a first year Liberal Arts major....

Now, to figure out just what the hell it means.

Re:Imaging method BUT.... (1)

bcong (1125705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34262998)

This article has an image, or at least a "visual reconstruction"
sciencedaily [sciencedaily.com]

RTFA: The imaging technique only works in the dark (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34263072)

So they can't take a picture of the images that are produced.

Re:Imaging method BUT.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34263492)

Well, just imagine what the terrorists would do with those images if they were publicly available. Think of the children man!

Re:Imaging method BUT.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34264478)

The video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZiuBOOIANFY

Re:Imaging method BUT.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34266602)

you could go to stanford med directly
http://med.stanford.edu/ism/2010/november/neuron-imaging.html

Re:Imaging method BUT.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34267038)

Here it is:
http://download.cell.com/neuron/pdf/PIIS089662731000766X.pdf

First (0, Offtopic)

Stooshie (993666) | more than 3 years ago | (#34262778)

Researchers at Stanford imaged my brain so quickly that they got me to make this first post remotely.

Re:First (2, Funny)

Stooshie (993666) | more than 3 years ago | (#34262786)

Oh well, they weren't quick enough!

Only a matter of time (1)

RoyalTee (1942268) | more than 3 years ago | (#34262796)

Another amazing technological step in the biology field. Its only a matter of time before we can the other 90% of our brain. We could even use, dare I say... Brain Control?! (Which is different from mind control)

Re:Only a matter of time (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34262934)

..Its (sic) only a matter of time before we can the other 90% of our brain

You go ahead and can yours. I'm keeping mine, thanks.

Re:Only a matter of time (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 3 years ago | (#34265354)

..Its (sic) only a matter of time before we can the other 90% of our brain

You go ahead and can yours. I'm keeping mine, thanks.

Right, some people will throw anything away.

Re:Only a matter of time (4, Insightful)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 3 years ago | (#34263156)

We are already using the 100% of our brain. For something as expensive to maintain as the brain, having 90% of unused area is an evolutionary disadvantage. Maybe we could give it a better use, for some value of better, but is not unused right now.

Re:Only a matter of time (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#34264254)

We are already using the 100% of our brain. For something as expensive to maintain as the brain, having 90% of unused area is an evolutionary disadvantage. Maybe we could give it a better use, for some value of better, but is not unused right now.

Frankly, a much better use of some derivative of this technology would be to scan a human brain and map it into a computer space. Add as much capacity as you need or can afford: no abitrary limits on how many cortical folds you can stuff into a bone box. There have been many stories written about such exploits (the Annals of the Hee Chee, Nivens' Sharls Davis Kendy, and of course Max Headroom.) I have no problem with the idea of becoming an immortal computer program, especially if the alternative was nonexistence. It was especially nifty in the case of the Hee Chee tech, because you could live in any virtual reality that you wished, and interact with other virtual beings (and, of course, slow yourself down to work at meatspace speeds when necessary.)

Re:Only a matter of time (2, Insightful)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 3 years ago | (#34265132)

You will end with a situation similar to Star Trek's teleporters. You are killing yourself and hopefully create something elsewhere that believes (for some definition of "believes", maybe behaves is a better approach for that) that is you. And you won't be exactly like before, as with teleporters, to have extra confidence.

In Caprica they were starting to explore the meaning of such thing and then the show got cancelled.

Re:Only a matter of time (1)

Securityemo (1407943) | more than 3 years ago | (#34265958)

What if you had a connection between the computer and the brain in some fashion such that the brain-computer-space and the physical-brain-space continue to interoperate seamlessly during the procedure? Then the "standing wave" of conciousness would stay the same, only the underlying material would change.

Re:Only a matter of time (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#34266666)

You will end with a situation similar to Star Trek's teleporters. You are killing yourself and hopefully create something elsewhere that believes (for some definition of "believes", maybe behaves is a better approach for that) that is you. And you won't be exactly like before, as with teleporters, to have extra confidence. In Caprica they were starting to explore the meaning of such thing and then the show got cancelled.

Yes, but if you're at the end of your existence anyway ... and besides, you're assuming the ultimately implementation of such a technology would be inherently fatal to the original brain. That's not necessarily true.

Re:Only a matter of time (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 3 years ago | (#34267762)

Frankly, a much better use of some derivative of this technology would be to scan a human brain and map it into a computer space.

You are assuming that if you copy the brain's hardware onto a computer you will end up with something indistinguishable from the original person.

I will believe that when I see it.

Re:Only a matter of time (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#34276592)

Frankly, a much better use of some derivative of this technology would be to scan a human brain and map it into a computer space.

You are assuming that if you copy the brain's hardware onto a computer you will end up with something indistinguishable from the original person.

I will believe that when I see it.

Doesn't need to be "indistinguishable" to be useful, especially if we're talking about government employees.

Re:Only a matter of time (1)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | more than 3 years ago | (#34265116)

You're actually incorrect. The vast majority of people cannot to use 100% of their brain at once.

We have a word for those rare people with the ability to do so.

Epileptics.

Re:Only a matter of time (4, Insightful)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 3 years ago | (#34265370)

Depends on the definition of "use." If you mean firing all at once, then yes, epileptics have that issue. However, just because a neuron is not firing does not mean that it is not doing something and/or receiving signals. BTW neurons don't just receive signals from other neurons, they receive signals from other tissue in the form of hormones.

Re:Only a matter of time (2, Insightful)

dogmatixpsych (786818) | more than 3 years ago | (#34267766)

Further, all neurons have a resting firing rate. They might only fire once per second or so but they are never "still". Most of the neurons in our brain serve as inhibitory regulators for other neurons. If this wasn't the case, we'd have too much activity.

Re:Only a matter of time (1)

Emb3rz (1210286) | more than 3 years ago | (#34266338)

Not your fault but posts like this infuriate me. For the umpteenth time, the brain is not a work of evolution. An intelligent designer gave it to us. Wake up and smell the bacon.

Noodles (2, Funny)

HeckRuler (1369601) | more than 3 years ago | (#34267854)

The pasta. You mean wake up and smell the pasta.
The glorious smell of divine carbohydrates smothered in both marinara AND red sauce, nestling two bountiful orbs of meat and bread conglomerate.

Ramen brother, ramen.

Re:Only a matter of time (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 3 years ago | (#34267956)

Not your fault but posts like this infuriate me. For the umpteenth time, the brain is not a work of evolution. An intelligent designer gave it to us. Wake up and smell the bacon.

Prove it.

Re:Only a matter of time (1)

Emb3rz (1210286) | more than 3 years ago | (#34270412)

Feel free to continue marvelling at the creation without giving honor to the creator. Clearly the evidence won't stop you, so what else could I possibly offer you?

Re:Only a matter of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34305054)

Some brains are apparently less evolved than others.

Re:Only a matter of time (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#34267734)

The "we only use 10% of our brain" is an old fallacy that's been disproven time and again, but it doesn't seem to want to die.

Re:Only a matter of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34304982)

When 100% of your brain is in use at any one time, we have a word for it.

"Seizure"

Re:Only a matter of time (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 3 years ago | (#34265902)

Its only a matter of time before we can [use] the other 90% of our brain.

We only use 10% of our brains an once...
This is similar to the way we only "use" a few bits of RAM or Hard Drive storage at once (think read-heads & chip instructions).

It's an evolutionary development: Your processor doesn't have to use all the bits all the time. This lets us store a vast amount of information off chip, and only use the bits we need when we need them.

Re:Only a matter of time (2, Insightful)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 3 years ago | (#34267118)

Trust me, you don't want to use "the other 90%" of your brain for consciousness. The full quote is likely to have been something like, "we only use 10% of our brain for consciousness, the rest runs background processes". You do not want to have to consciously keep track of keeping your blood pumping, regulating just the right amount of hormones in each area of the body, heat movement, cellular growth, gamete development, etc. Specialization, even within the body and brain, is important.

Re:Only a matter of time (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#34267556)

If I can control your brain I can control your mind. Thoughts and feelings are simply complex chemical reactions, nothing more.

will a future version of this work.... (1)

catbutt (469582) | more than 3 years ago | (#34262810)

...on my cryonically preserved brain?

Re:will a future version of this work.... (1)

WrongMonkey (1027334) | more than 3 years ago | (#34263198)

The Stanford team used brain samples from a mouse that had been bioengineered so that particularly large neurons that abound in the cerebral cortex express a fluorescent protein, normally found in jellyfish, that glows yellowish-green."

Not unless you have been genetically modified to have jellyfish proteins in your brain.

Re:will a future version of this work.... (2, Funny)

sharkey (16670) | more than 3 years ago | (#34263254)

"Now that brain that you gave me. Was it Hans Delbruck's?"


........'No".

Re:will a future version of this work.... (2, Funny)

eriqk (1902450) | more than 3 years ago | (#34266702)

Ah. Good. Uh... would you mind telling me... whose brain... I did put in?

Doesn't work on a live brain (4, Informative)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#34262848)

A slab of tissue — in this case, from a mouse's cerebral cortex — was carefully sliced into sections only 70 nanometers thick. (That's the distance spanned by 700 hydrogen atoms theoretically lined up side by side.) These ultrathin sections were stained with antibodies designed to match 17 different synapse-associated proteins, and they were further modified by conjugation to molecules that respond to light by glowing in different colors.

In case you were wondering, you have to be dead to be scanned with this technique, and it doesn't look like they will be able to press a button and scan a whole brain.

Re:Doesn't work on a live brain (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#34262912)

no problem, I have a list of politicians we can scan. Also, my boss should be scanned.

Re:Doesn't work on a live brain (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 3 years ago | (#34263140)

no problem, I have a list of politicians we can scan. Also, my boss should be scanned.

It wont work. The politicians don't have a brain.

Re:Doesn't work on a live brain (2, Funny)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 3 years ago | (#34264998)

No, they have brains, they just exhibit below average activity in the cortex, and above average activity in the limbic system.

That's why they think that any measure that is intended to "Protect the children" is OK.

(Consequently, it is also why they spend such an inordinate amount of time and resources chasing people around bathroom stalls and cloak rooms.)

Re:Doesn't work on a live brain (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 3 years ago | (#34263190)

Not sure about your boss, but won't be good to scan those politicians. Would be inhuman to force machines to do that.

Re:Doesn't work on a live brain (1)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 3 years ago | (#34263494)

I'll volunteer to push the button, I can find a way to live with it.

Re:Doesn't work on a live brain (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#34264268)

I'll volunteer to push the button, I can find a way to live with it.

No matter. Consider it a civic duty, nay, a moral imperative.

Re:Doesn't work on a live brain (1)

WrongMonkey (1027334) | more than 3 years ago | (#34263110)

It also requires a specimen that is genetically engineered to have fluorescent neurons. So doing this on humans at all is out of the question.

Re:Doesn't work on a live brain (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#34263262)

Makes me wonder if you could retrofit synapses with something which emits photons when action potentials change. I have molecules of Carbamazepine [wikipedia.org] in most of my sodium channels for example. It gums up the works somewhat (thats the point of taking the drug) but if you could find something which diverts a bit of energy to make photons then you may be able to extract information in real time.

Re:Doesn't work on a live brain (1)

WrongMonkey (1027334) | more than 3 years ago | (#34270072)

That's not a bad idea. The biggest problem action potentials are in the range of ~40 mV, which means that the photons generated would have to be very low energy and wouldn't be able to be detected through the tissue. But you might be able to do something like a PET scan where the tracer is selectively attracted to active neurons and the emission is from radioactive decay.

Re:Doesn't work on a live brain (2, Funny)

G3CK0 (708703) | more than 3 years ago | (#34264220)

A slab of tissue — in this case, from a mouse's cerebral cortex — was carefully sliced into sections only 70 nanometers thick. (That's the distance spanned by 700 hydrogen atoms theoretically lined up side by side.) These ultrathin sections were stained with antibodies designed to match 17 different synapse-associated proteins, and they were further modified by conjugation to molecules that respond to light by glowing in different colors.

In case you were wondering, you have to be dead to be scanned with this technique, and it doesn't look like they will be able to press a button and scan a whole brain.

I'm not so sure that this small technicality will stop the TSA from installing one of these scanners :)

Re:Doesn't work on a live brain (1)

rdnetto (955205) | more than 3 years ago | (#34265750)

If they can get this working, you might not remain dead. As I understand it, all the information in a neural network is stored in the connections between neurons - that is, how much of the signal gets transmitted to the next neuron. This is usually represented as a decimal between 0 and 1 in programming.
If we could measure those values and record the arrangement of neurons, it would be possible to literally copy someone's mind. Actually running it would require a ridiculously powerful computer, but Moore's law should take care of that and at any rate the problem is extremely parallel.
Imagine the progress we could make if the greatest minds of our time could be stored and continue to make discoveries even after death.

Re:Doesn't work on a live brain (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#34265946)

You only need a powerful computer if you want to run the simulation in real time. From the point of view of the simulation that may not be necessary. I have my doubts about reconstructing the personality from a static analysis of the brain. A lot of the information transfer is serial so knowing what is connected to what doesn't tell you enough about the protocols they are using.

Re:Doesn't work on a live brain (1)

rdnetto (955205) | more than 3 years ago | (#34266266)

You would need the speed to be at least within an order of magnitude of realtime for it to have any practical use. Within the brain/neural network whatever protocols are in use is irrelevant, since it's communicating with itself. As for connecting it to reality, connecting the I/O neurons to another dead/cloned body should suffice.
Really, the only issue I can think of is that if the values of the connections couldn't be changed by the 'mind', then the person would be unable to learn anything new and would thus be almost useless.

Re:Doesn't work on a live brain (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 3 years ago | (#34268026)

If we could measure those values and record the arrangement of neurons, it would be possible to literally copy someone's mind.

What about Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle? Are you really sure we will ever be able to capture tens of billions of events simultaneously with perfect accuracy?

Re:Doesn't work on a live brain (1)

rdnetto (955205) | more than 3 years ago | (#34269834)

This is on the cellular level, so I don't think that applies. 'Capturing tens of billions of events simultaneously with perfect accuracy' is a strawman - we don't need observe all the signals simultaneously, we just need to measure the resistance (for lack of a better word) along each connection. 'Perfect accuracy' isn't found anywhere in science - we just need it to be good enough.
A century ago, people would never have believed it possible to communicate across the planet in under a second, or to communicate with other planets. Human technology grows exponentially and can't be underestimated.

Identifying Circuits for Biometrics (1)

sound2man (1427737) | more than 3 years ago | (#34262924)

Hopefully this will lead to further breakthroughs in biometric prosthesis. If they can map out where the nerves are and what their functions are more accurately, we may soon be able to interface with them more directly. Imagine a prosthetic arm that actually has feelings versus our current ones that only have motion. This could a a very good thing... or scary for those afraid of cybernetics.

Re:Identifying Circuits for Biometrics (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 3 years ago | (#34262988)

Imagine, a therapy by which one can backup their brain. Lost Cell Phones, Keys, Girl Friends birthdays. The last one alone is worth the research.

Re:Identifying Circuits for Biometrics (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 3 years ago | (#34268094)

Imagine, a therapy by which one can backup their brain. Lost Cell Phones, Keys, Girl Friends birthdays. The last one alone is worth the research.

If you've forgotten your girlfriend's birthday, having a backup of your brain would be shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, although it would be useful if it could be transplanted into a new body after she'd tortured the old one to death.

Re:Identifying Circuits for Biometrics (1)

RespekMyAthorati (798091) | more than 3 years ago | (#34285858)

Besides, you would also have to have a girlfriend.

Who woulda thunk it? (1)

rholland356 (466635) | more than 3 years ago | (#34262948)

Are these the human-brained mice of which I've heard so much of late?

Immunohistochemistry. Also, can't see circuitry. (5, Informative)

Casai (1011763) | more than 3 years ago | (#34263036)

This is immunohistochemistry [wikipedia.org] , just scaled up to many different antibodies for the same sample and realigned in space.

Also, the connectivity is lost. You can't tell which neurons are connected to which other neurons. The overall circuitry, essential for the functioning of neural networks, is invisible. All you can see is points of contact between neurons.

Perhaps combining this technique with super high resolution diffusion tensor imaging would be a way forward. Although, as far as I know, DTI is nowhere near neuron or axon resolution as of yet.

Re:Immunohistochemistry. Also, can't see circuitry (2, Interesting)

Casai (1011763) | more than 3 years ago | (#34263114)

Also, I'd be interested to see how (or if) they managed to completely wash off antibodies between scans without damaging the tissue or disrupting synaptic structure. Many synaptic proteins recognize and bind each other in the same way that antibodies bind their antigens, so it stands to reason that disrupting antibody binding would also disrupt the binding of these proteins.

Re:Immunohistochemistry. Also, can't see circuitry (3, Informative)

DeadCatX2 (950953) | more than 3 years ago | (#34263274)

I was just about to come here and mention DTI, but you beat me to it.

I'm not sure if they're down to neuron/axon resolution yet, but I do know they're pretty close. Dr. Walter Schneider at the University of Pittsburgh has created a movie image of the various connections in his brain.

http://www.lrdc.pitt.edu/schneider/ [pitt.edu]

Re:Immunohistochemistry. Also, can't see circuitry (2, Informative)

dogmatixpsych (786818) | more than 3 years ago | (#34267726)

I do this exact research (diffusion weighted imaging of human brains). We are no where near neuronal/axonal resolution with diffusion weighted scanning (DTI is a special case of diffusion weighted scanning - there are better methods than DTI for analyzing images: e.g., http://brainybehavior.com/neuroimaging/2010/08/hardi_vs_dti/ [brainybehavior.com] ).

With live humans we only resolve down to about 2mm^3. There are many neurons and axons in that space. At best for the whole brain we create only a few fibers for that 2x2x2 mm area when in reality there are tens of thousands to millions of fibers. If we limit our field of view, we can scan at around 500 microns but that is really pushing the limit. With whole removed brains, researchers potentially could scan at 250 microns resolution but 500 microns is more likely. We can do little pieces of brain in ultra high field strength machines at greater resolution (maybe 150 microns).

I think that some day we will get there but we're not particularly close to resolving individual neurons with diffusion weighted imaging.

Re:Immunohistochemistry. Also, can't see circuitry (1)

DeadCatX2 (950953) | more than 3 years ago | (#34267992)

Thanks for the info! I guess I should have better qualified "close", but it's not really my field, I just know a guy who knows a guy who... After reading your link, I think I vaguely remember something about the DTI being unable to resolve fibers that cross.

I'm guessing that you do your studies on a 3T...do you know how much better a 7T might be?

What resolution must we reach in order to resolve a individual fibers?

Re:Immunohistochemistry. Also, can't see circuitry (1)

dogmatixpsych (786818) | more than 3 years ago | (#34268266)

Yes, we use a 3T. Theoretically 7Ts would be better (there aren't any 7T scanners for people that I know of) but there are some issues that engineers are still working through (signal, noise, safety, etc.).

To reliably resolve individual axons, we'd have to have a resolution of under 5 m (as I said earlier, we typically resolve 2000 m in vivo). That's a huge volume difference (125 cubic m vs. 8,000,000,000 cubic m)! We "take pictures" of the brain using voxels (volumetric pixels), so the 3D resolution is important (although, you could work on having a high in plane resolution and not worry so much about the depth - e.g., 5 m X 5 m X 50 m).

Yeah, we'd love to do individual fibers but it will be a lot of years before that happens, at least with MRI technology.

Re:Immunohistochemistry. Also, can't see circuitry (1)

DeadCatX2 (950953) | more than 3 years ago | (#34268538)

Safety, yes. I bet the heating issue would be much worse at 7T. A google turns up a few places that have a 7T

Okay, so we are waaay farther from fibers than I thought. Still, though, fascinating little discussion, thanks! I love talking to brain researchers for some strange reason.

Re:Immunohistochemistry. Also, can't see circuitry (1)

dogmatixpsych (786818) | more than 3 years ago | (#34268642)

You're welcome. You are correct, there are a few 7T human scanners being used for research now. I hadn't checked on 7T scanners for a couple years so I guess things have changed! I'd love to get my hands on a 7T scanner. :)

Re:Immunohistochemistry. Also, can't see circuitry (1)

dogmatixpsych (786818) | more than 3 years ago | (#34268678)

I should add that 7T MR scanners are not available commercially. This means you have to have a research agreement with the manufacturer to have one (you essentially test it out for them).

Re:Immunohistochemistry. Also, can't see circuitry (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 3 years ago | (#34270782)

There are very convincing theoretical reasons why DTI can never resolve individual axons, at least not in a non-cryogenic sample. If you want to look at individual axons you're far better off doing it the old fashioned (and considerably less sexy) way: with a microscope.

Re:Immunohistochemistry. Also, can't see circuitry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34275832)

How far are they with gamma ray laser holography?

Re:Immunohistochemistry. Also, can't see circuitry (1)

structural_biologist (1122693) | more than 3 years ago | (#34278634)

There are existing techniques that give ~tens of nanometers resolution using fluorescence microscopy (discussed in a feature in Nature Methods [nature.com] ). Techniques such as PALM/FPALM/STORM (developed by Betzig, Hess, and Zhuang, independently) use photoswitchable fluorophores to image and localize single fluorescent molecules with high precision then reconstruct the image from these single molecule images. Another technique, STED (stimulated emission depletion, developed by Hell) uses stimulated emission to effectively shrink the size of the point spread function of a fluorescence microscope. Yet another technique, structured illumination microscopy (developed by Gustafsson), plays tricks with moiré patterns to extend the resolution of optical microscopy. All would, in theory, be applicable on Smith's array tomography samples.

On issue with superresolution fluorescence microscopy, however, is that the spatial resolution of an image is dependent on the density of antibodies bound to the sample. The Nyquist criterion defines how frequently one must sample the underlying structure (the neuron) in order to achieve a specific spatial resolution. In this case, each antibody that binds to the neuron is one sampling event. Therefore, achieving very high resolution requires binding more antibody to the sample than typical for standard immunohistochemistry. This can be difficult, especially in samples that are embeded in resin (as is required to get the 70 nm sections used in the array tomography method), as the embeding process can drastically reduce the antigenicity of the sample.

Oh, no! FACEBOOK IS IN MY BRAIN! (1)

PatPending (953482) | more than 3 years ago | (#34263142)

"Researchers ... have been able to quickly and accurately locate and count the myriad connections between nerve cells in unprecedented detail, ..."

Zuckerberg is working on an API for this right now.

Incredible Complexity (4, Interesting)

B1oodAnge1 (1485419) | more than 3 years ago | (#34263158)

From the CNET article: [cnet.com]

They found that the brain's complexity is beyond anything they'd imagined, almost to the point of being beyond belief, says Stephen Smith, a professor of molecular and cellular physiology and senior author of the paper describing the study: "One synapse, by itself, is more like a microprocessor--with both memory-storage and information-processing elements--than a mere on/off switch. In fact, one synapse may contain on the order of 1,000 molecular-scale switches. A single human brain has more switches than all the computers and routers and Internet connections on Earth.

This is why I am extremely skeptical of claims that we will be able to effectively model the brain, or recreate it artificially, any time soon.

Re:Incredible Complexity (2, Insightful)

urusan (1755332) | more than 3 years ago | (#34263526)

The good news is that it shows how much we can still improve microprocessor technology. Perhaps Moore's Law (or something similar) will keep up for quite some time into the future?

Re:Incredible Complexity (1)

wideBlueSkies (618979) | more than 3 years ago | (#34264308)

I for one welcome our new Cylon overlords.

Re:Incredible Complexity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34263624)

number of switches in a brain = number switches per neuron * number neurons=1000*2E11 = 2.0E14
number of switches in computers = mean number switches per computer * number computers=2.5E8*1E9=2.5E17
estimates from here [wikipedia.org] and here [gartner.com]

Re:Incredible Complexity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34264466)

You forgot about latency.

Re:Incredible Complexity (1)

FiloEleven (602040) | more than 3 years ago | (#34264900)

You skipped a step in your first calculation: the switches are per synapse, not per neuron. The number of synapses per neuron varies radically, but all the numbers are quite high.

From WP:Neuron [wikipedia.org] :

Neurons such as Purkinje cells in the cerebellum can have over 1000 dendritic branches, making connections with tens of thousands of other cells; other neurons, such as the magnocellular neurons of the supraoptic nucleus, have only one or two dendrites, each of which receives thousands of synapses.

Re:Incredible Complexity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34266300)

Well spotted. I missed the synapse bit.
The same wikepedia page estimates the number of synapses in an adult brain at 1E14 to 5E14, resulting in 1E17 to 5E17 switches, roughly the same as the estimates of the number of switches in a human brain.

Re:Incredible Complexity (1)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 3 years ago | (#34264564)

This is why I am extremely skeptical of claims that we will be able to effectively model the brain, or recreate it artificially, any time soon.

Well, maybe, maybe not. It may be that we are finding unexpected complexity in the brain. On the other hand, we're seeing continued advances in computing technology - I remember reading about the end of Moore's law 20 years ago! Sure, physics have forced certain ideas to be tossed, such as the Uni-Processor model, but progress is still occurring at a blistering pace, with my battery-powered Android phone handily outperforming the top-of-the-line computers highlighted in those "Moore's law is almost dead" articles of yore.

Even if it's 100x as complicated as we thought, that only adds 10 years or so to Moore's law with an 18-month doubling.

Look at it this way: for a long time, sequencing the human genome was predicted to take decades. Thanks to advances in computing technology, it took less than one, and nowadays it's within the reach of any middle-class American to get their own individual DNA sequenced.

Re:Incredible Complexity (1)

B1oodAnge1 (1485419) | more than 3 years ago | (#34265006)

You're point is a good one, and it's why I wouldn't say it's impossible.

However if my understanding of the article is correct we are looking at much higher than 100x the complexity that has been thought up till now, and that's just the hardware, we're even further from understanding the software.

Again, I agree that technology is amazing and rapidly moving, but a working model of a human brain is something that I hope to live to see, rather than something I expect anytime soon. I'm 23, if they can accomplish that in 70 years I will be impressed and excited on my deathbed. :-)

Re:Incredible Complexity (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 3 years ago | (#34268154)

Again, I agree that technology is amazing and rapidly moving, but a working model of a human brain is something that I hope to live to see, rather than something I expect anytime soon. I'm 23, if they can accomplish that in 70 years I will be impressed and excited on my deathbed. :-)

The point is, if they could indeed faithfully copy the human brain, you wouldn't have a deathbed. That is why it seems so unlikely to all but Ray Kurzweil fans.

Re:Incredible Complexity (1)

sempir (1916194) | more than 3 years ago | (#34265812)

Wait till they get all this brain shit sorted out and claim they can effectively model the brain....THEN i'm gonna say "right.....now do the same with a womans brain"...Ha!....fucked....arn't you!!!

Let the reverse engineering begin! (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 3 years ago | (#34263598)

I need an upgrade desperately.

And then the litigation begins... (1)

N0Man74 (1620447) | more than 3 years ago | (#34265324)

I'm not looking forward to when we can synthetically reproduce and upgrade our brains with new computing-like technologies. I don't want to have to pay millions of dollars for getting songs stuck in my head.

New screening measures (1)

jrroche (1937546) | more than 3 years ago | (#34263660)

Is this going to replace the back scatter scans as the new TSA scan of choice?

I hate to say it.. (1)

jmerlin (1010641) | more than 3 years ago | (#34263686)

but.. pics or it didn't happen. Thx.

I wonder (1)

btlyger (1941696) | more than 3 years ago | (#34263994)

I wonder if they imagined we would be impressed by this "finding".

You know what they say... (1)

synthespian (563437) | more than 3 years ago | (#34265316)

          Pics or it didn't happen

web designing company in chandigarh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34265758)

"Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine, applying a advanced imaging arrangement to brain-tissue samples from mice, accept been able to bound and accurately locate and calculation the countless access amid assumption beef in aberrant detail, as able-bodied as to abduction and archive those connections' hasty variety. A archetypal advantageous animal academician contains about 200 billion assumption cells, or neurons, affiliated to one addition via hundreds of trillions of tiny contacts alleged synapses. It is at these synapses that an electrical actuation traveling forth one neuron is relayed to another, either acceptable or inhibiting the likelihood that the additional assumption will blaze an actuation of its own. One neuron may accomplish as abounding as tens of bags of synaptic contacts with added neurons, said Stephen Smith, PhD, assistant of atomic and cellular analysis and chief columnist of a cardboard anecdotic the study, to be appear Nov. 18 in Neuron." web designing company in chandigarh [saiyom.com] thanks....

I think the word you are looking for is connectome (1)

floydman (179924) | more than 3 years ago | (#34266316)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Connectome [wikipedia.org]
which is a map of the neural connections in the brain.

I highly recommend watching this vid, demonstrating the "New Imaging" methods, its also quite humorous.
http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/sebastian_seung.html [ted.com]

chemical signals too (1)

Dr.Ruud (98254) | more than 3 years ago | (#34266654)

The summary only mentions electrical pulses, it should have mentioned that the local chemical environment is part of the information exchange.

Not yet "Singularity" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34277442)

Of course, you'd have to be dead to use this yourself.

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