Studying the brains of mice is aiding in our comprehension of the workings of the human brain.

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In a recent disclosure, scientists at Google presented the most extensive, most intricate chart of the human brain to date. The visualization focused on merely 1 tiny cubic millimeter of brain tissue, equivalent to half a grain of rice, yet with a resolution high enough to depict individual nerve cells and their interconnections. The process required 1.4 petabytes of data for encoding.

Despite examining just a sliver of the brain, discoveries from this map have been eye-opening. Viren Jain, a Google Research Scientist, noted unexpected findings, such as certain nerve fibers bundling up into massive tangles. “We have no idea why – it’s a phenomenon never witnessed before,” mentioned Jain.

Currently, Jain and his research squad are focused on studying mice. This shift is crucial, as these creatures can potentially unravel enigmas about the human mind that have persisted throughout history. Questions like how memories are stored and retrieved, the mechanisms behind object and facial recognition, the purpose of extensive sleep, and the intricacies of conditions like Alzheimer’s and other brain disorders could find solutions with the help of mouse studies.

Understanding that the brain comprises roughly 86 billion nerve cells interconnected through over 100 trillion synapses driving cognitive processes, emotions, actions, and interactions, researchers aim to create a comprehensive map of these neural links — a “connectome.” This endeavor could provide groundbreaking insights into brain functionality and the origins of neurological dysfunctions.

To generate intricate maps at the synaptic level, scientists must capture brain images at nanometer precision and manage vast datasets. Overcoming this technical hurdle necessitates ongoing advancements in imaging technologies, artificial intelligence algorithms, and data handling tools. Recognizing this need, Google Research established the Connectomics team a decade ago.


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