Researchers Construct the Most Complete Image of a Brain Ever

A new process developed by neuroscientists can render the most precise image of a brain ever.
Shelby Rogers

Created by a team of researchers from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Ashburn, Virginia, this 16-second video is the result of two high-speed electron microscopes, 7,062 brain slices, and 21 million images -- all of a fly's brain.

Thanks to the new imaging, scientists can now trace the path of any one neuron to another throughout an entire brain.

"The entire fly brain has never been imaged before at this resolution that lets you see connections between neurons," neuroscientist Davi Bock, who led the team, said. "Any time you look at images with higher resolution and more completeness, you’re going to discover new things."

Bock said the researchers wanted to focus on a fruit fly's brain due to the surprising levels of sophistication in their brains. They can both learn and remember details, Bock said, despite being only the size of a poppy seed.

It contains roughly 100,000 neurons; by comparison, the human brain contains over 100 billion. The Virginia-based researchers used serial section transmission electron microscopy to collect over 21 million images of the entire fly brain. 

Initially, that challenge was extensive and time-consuming. However, the team developed high-speed cameras and two unique systems to move tissue samples in 8-micrometer increments to quickly capture more space. The technology sped the process up five times faster than any previous research of similar status.