Decoding how brain circuits control behavior

ScienceDaily | 10/31/2018 | Staff
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The brain depends on this circuitry to interpret information about the world, learn from experiences, and control movements. Nerve cells are intermingled in this tight space to form an intricate network -- making it difficult for scientists to understand which cells are responsible for which tasks.

Now, in two papers published October 31, 2018, in the journal Nature, researchers at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Research Campus and the Allen Institute for Brain Science have worked out how two types of intermingled nerve cells divide the labor to plan and initiate movements. By integrating cell-by-cell analyses of neurons' shapes, gene activity, and function, the team has teased out which brain cells are responsible for these distinct but closely related jobs.

Analyses - Feat - Janelia - Group - Leader

Combining such extensive analyses represents a major technical feat, says Janelia Group Leader Karel Svoboda. It's a new approach to understanding brain function, he says. The work required multiple teams of scientists at multiple institutes teaming up to solve a single problem. Svoboda thinks that this kind of approach will be necessary to help researchers crack the most complex questions in neuroscience.

"Major progress in brain research will increasingly rely on these types of collaborations," he says.

World - Researchers - Efforts - Maps - Truths

Around the world, researchers have embarked on efforts to build comprehensive neural maps to uncover truths about the brain.

Neuroscientists are exploring the brain's elaborate networks from many different angles, charting cell structures, molecular features, and neural activities. Combining this disparate information to gain insights about brain function remains an outstanding challenge, Svoboda says.

Janelia - Mapping - Effort - Anatomy - Scientists

At Janelia, one long-term mapping effort involves neuronal anatomy. Scientists on the MouseLight project team have been determining the precise structure of neurons in the mouse brain -- a massive undertaking that involves painstakingly tracing individual neurons' wiry paths across thousands of images of the brain. Complementary efforts at the Allen Institute are charting...
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