The human brain has 100 billion neurons, connected to each other in networks that allow us to interpret the world around us, plan for the future, and control our actions and movements. MIT neuroscientist Sebastian Seung wants to map those networks, creating a wiring diagram of the brain that could help scientists learn how we each become our unique selves.
In a paper appearing in the Aug. 7 online edition of Nature, Seung and collaborators at MIT and the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Germany have reported their first step toward this goal: Using a combination of human and artificial intelligence, they have mapped all the wiring among 950 neurons within a tiny patch of the mouse retina.
Composed of neurons that process visual information, the retina is technically part of the brain and is a more approachable starting point, Seung says. By mapping all of the neurons in this 117-micrometer-by-80-micrometer patch of tissue, the researchers were able to classify most of the neurons they found, based on their patterns of wiring. They also identified a new type of retinal cell that had not been seen before.