548,000 nerve cell connections: First insect brain fully mapped

Human brains consist of billions of nerve cells and are connected to one another by countless connections. Mapping all of these synapses is impossible. But this has now been achieved for the 548,000 synapses of the 3016 nerve cells in the brain of the larva of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, writes a research team led by Michael Winding from the University of Cambridge in the journal “Science“.

Using electron microscopy techniques, it created the first “connectome” of the entire brain of a Drosophila larva. Such a map of the circuitry of nerve cells is a valuable resource for understanding the basic functional mechanisms of the brain.

Previously, only three other organisms with even simpler brains of just a few hundred neurons had succeeded. According to the authors, some of the identified structural features, such as multi-layer joins and nested loops, resembled those of machine learning networks. (skb)

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