Insects seem to be tiny little beings with complicated body structures, but mapping a brain is not the easiest thing to do. Researchers from the University of Cambridge have successfully mapped an insect’s brain. The mapping was done using a baby fruit fly, showing all the messenger cells (neurons) and the way they are wired together.
The map showed a detailed circuit of the neural pathway of 3,016 neurons, which made up the larva’s brain. This neural circuit is called a connectome. This mapping is said to be the largest brain connectome made to date.
Professor Marta Zlatic from the Department of Archeology and Professor Albert Cardona from the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience of the University of Cambridge, and colleague scientists from Johns Hopkins University, led the research.
Image Credit- Pixabay
Why is this such a big deal?
The idea of Brainmap was introduced in 1987 and received peak funding between the years of 1988 and 2004. The human brain hasn’t been completely mapped yet but success has been achieved in mapping various parts.
Brain mapping is also termed neuro mapping. Brain maps are used to study brainwaves and are useful in understanding the communication process between different parts of the brain.
The way a brain is wired tells us a lot about the thoughts it can process. Until now only structures of tiny organisms like roundworms, low chordates and larvae of a marine annelid are fully known. The brain of these organisms only consists of several thousands of neurons which is a tiny number when compared to fully developed brains like a human brain.
Hence, the mapping of an insect’s brain is seen to be a great achievement. Not only was every single neuron mapped, but the way they are connected is also shown in the study.
Image Credit- Pixabay
How is Brain Mapping useful?
Until now, neuroscience has been walking on gravel, without a proper path to follow. As for circuit mapping, scientists have been making guesses about the computations that are implemented. This achievement by Zlatic, Cardona and the team of scientists has given a mechanistic understanding of brain functioning. It will help us understand how signals move neurons and synapses, which results in our behavioural changes. A detailed understanding of brain networking can be used in the future for medical treatments as well.
Brain mapping is efficient in surgeries, it gives us an idea of how the patient might behave or respond to treatment of a particular part of the brain. Not only surgeries, but it will also help us have a better understanding of mental health. Mapping would make us aware of the brain parts and reasons responsible for one’s depression and anxiety.
The brain is the most important mystery of mankind. It is responsible for every physical and mental activity we perform daily. No doubt, the human brain has evolved tremendously over centuries and everything we see around us is the creation of the brain. Hence, understanding the brain becomes a crucial aspect and we are not even halfway there yet. Over the past few decades, the little knowledge of brain mapping has helped us cure various diseases.
Current technology is not capable of mapping the brains of large mammals but every possible effort is being made and we may one day be able to understand the connectome of the human brain as well.
The article was published in the journal Science.
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