AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 27, Number 2, 2018


Cell Taxonomy Identified in Mouse Visual Cortex

In order to completely understand brain function, researchers need to understand the cellular building blocks of the brain, including the diversity of cell types. In a study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, researchers from the Allen Institute for Brain science created a detailed taxonomy of cells in the mouse visual cortex based on single-cell gene expression, identifying 49 distinct cell types in the largest collection of individual adult cortical neurons characterized by gene expression published to date. “Studying any system requires knowing what the system is made of,” said the study’s lead researcher. “There are many ways to define the brain’s cellular building blocks. Our approach was to look at all the genes that are expressed in individual cells in the mouse visual cortex and use that information to classify the cells.” When single cells were analyzed by clustering in this lower-dimensional space, results showed 49 distinct groups that appeared based on unique combinations of genes they express, including 42 neuronal cell types and 7 non-neuronal types. According to researchers, the human cortex is what gives rise to our unique thoughts and perceptions, and having this kind of objective analysis of cell types in this region of the brain is a basic piece of understanding that’s needed to provide a baseline for looking at other regions of the mouse brain and also at the human brain. To read more about this study, click here.

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