An Introduction to Connectomics

What is Connectomics?

Neurons are the basic building blocks of the nervous system. They have a role in basically everything your body does from keeping your heart beating to fighting with your siblings, running a 10 km or acing (or failing) a math test.

How does imaging work?

  1. Scientists slice a sample of neural tissue into pieces less than 300 atoms thick.
  2. Each slice is viewed under an electron microscope which enables it to be analyzed at an atomic level.
  3. The magnified sample is then photographed.
  4. These photographs are played in rapid succession on a video clip. This allows scientists to see how the nerve structures change from one side of the tissue to the other — when new connections emerge, where they grow and shrink in size and what shape they assume in space. It’s kind of like stop motion animation, but instead of moving through time, you’re moving through space.
  5. These photographs can also be layered to form a digital representation of a 3D section of the tissue. Some software even allows the user to highlight one specific nerve and see it’s shape and position in relationship to other nerves

What are some potential challenges for connectomics?

1. Imaging the brain is time intensive.

What is the future of connectomics?

In the future, connectomics will largely be applied to the medical field, specificically understanding how our neural structure relates to mental health disorders including Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia and autism.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Avery Parkinson

Avery Parkinson

Activator at The Knowledge Society | A Sandwich or Two Founder