Decoding How Brain Circuits Control Behavior
The mouse brain contains roughly 80 million neurons, all packed into a space about the size of a hazelnut. Those cells come in a vast assortment of shapes and sizes, and their connections with one another number in the billions – at least.
Now researchers at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus and the Allen Institute for Brain Science have worked out how two types of intermingled nerve cells divide the labor to plan and initiate movements. By integrating cell-by-cell analyses of neurons’ shapes, gene activity, and function, the team has teased out which brain cells are responsible for these distinct but closely related jobs.
Combining such extensive analyses represents a major technical feat, says Janelia Group Leader Karel Svoboda. It’s a new approach to understanding brain function, he says. The work required multiple teams of scientists at multiple institutes teaming up to solve a single problem. Svoboda thinks that this kind of approach will be necessary to help researchers crack the most complex questions in neuroscience.
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