Scientists at Google and the Janelia Research Campus in Virginia published the largest and most comprehensive set of brain scans. The project includes nearly one-third of the brain of a fruit fly and includes detailed mappings for more than 25 thousand neurons featuring more than 20 million synapses. Google and the scientists at the Janelia Research Campus have published the entire project open-source.
According to the researchers, it’s the largest synaptic-level connectome ever to be reconstructed. Scientists are already using the groundbreaking map to study fly behaviors.
They chose fruit flies because they are incredibly complex but still posses a small enough brain to make the endeavor manageable. Fruit flies have built-in navigation systems and exhibit high-level behavior functions such as courtship dances.
The scientists have spent hundreds of thousands of hours over more than two years tracing synapses in virtual reality to verify the veracity of the project. The big idea here is that these images aren’t just random neurons in the flies‘ brains. These specific groupings are called “connectomes” according to the field of “connectomics.”