The human brain has about 100 billion neurons, with more than 100 trillion connections, or synapses, among them. A long-term goal of neuroscience research is to create a wiring diagram of each of the brain’s neurons and its connections. Knowing all of the connections could enable a greater understanding of the function of the various types of neurons, as well as of individual brain areas. Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research have taken an important step toward this goal by creating a complete neural wiring diagram of a small piece of the mouse retina. Their findings were published today (August 7) in Nature.
“It’s the complete reconstruction of all the neurons inside this [area],” said study coauthor Sebastian Seung, a computational neuroscientist at MIT, in a statement. “No one’s ever done that before in the mammalian nervous system.”