From Medical Xpress:

Artist impression of neurons firing in the brain. Credit: StudioSmart/shutterstock.com

There are around 100 billion neurons in the human brain, each connected to hundreds of neighbours. Analysing the link between neural activity in the brain, and the behaviour that causes it, could shed light on both areas. Now, a team of scientists has engineered imaging techniques to map neuronal firing in an entire nervous system at high speed, an approach which might one day unlock our understanding of animal behaviour.

Science has already uncovered much about the nervous system, so we have a fairly comprehensive picture of how the central nervous system (CNS) functions at the microscopic and molecular level.

The next step is to scale up our understanding of how these functions work at the level of the entire nervous system. The first nervous structural connection map of this kind, of C. Elegans, a tiny worm with only 302 neurons, was published in 1986. But today’s neuroscientists can go much further, combining structural and functional connections to understand how they operate – a field referred to as connectomics.

Making connections

Connectomics draws scientists from engineering, physics, chemistry and computer sciences into neuroscience, where a variety of techniques using advanced equipment can generate images, called multimodal imaging. We expect connectomics to unveil the biology that lies behind the mental and physical processes required when organisms execute complex tasks and, ultimately, to reveal the neural basis of our cognitive behaviour.

Neurons firing in the central nervous system of…

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