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Complete Connectome of a Learning and Memory Center Mapped

Complete Connectome of a Learning and Memory Center Mapped content piece image
Left: light microscope image of a fly larvae. Center: electron microscope reconstruction of individual nerve cells. Right: example of an individual reconstructed cell (violet) in the fly larvae brain. Credit: Katharina Eichler, University of Konstanz
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A significant development in understanding the brain: As part of her doctoral thesis, Katharina Eichler, a doctoral student at the University of Konstanz under the supervision of the neurobiologist Dr. Andreas Thum, has for the first time ever described the mushroom body connectome within the brain of fly larvae (Drosophila melanogaster) - the circuit diagram of nerve cells. In the past several years, and in close cooperation with the Janelia Research Campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Virginia, these neurobiologists used high-resolution 3D electron microscopy to reconstruct nerve cells and their individual connections via synapses. The examination of this circuit will be instrumental in guiding future research on how the brain learns new things and then stores these as memories. The research results were published in the 10 August 2017 edition of the journal "Nature" under the title: "The complete connectome of a learning and memory center in an insect brain"

Katharina Eichler manually recorded all of the approximate four hundred cells and reconstructed every one of the roughly one hundred thousand synapses in a microscopically photographed larval brain. The research carried out by the researchers at the University of Konstanz represents a significant contribution towards the overall aim of the international collaborative project led by Dr. Albert Cardona from the Janelia Research Campus: to create a complete wiring diagram of the entire brain of Drosophila larvae. Towards this end, researchers in more than 20 labs from around the world are collaborating to reconstruct all of the 10,000 nerve cells. With the modeling of the mushroom body, the researchers from Konstanz have reconstructed almost 8,000 cells of this multi-purpose brain structure. In the next two to three years, all of the connections within the insect brain will be mapped out.

"The brain's mushroom body is also its memory center in which sensory information is collected and memory is created. It is therefore essential for understanding the brain. Not only were we able to completely reconstruct this crucial component of the brain, but we also documented the existence of new circuit connection patterns between individual cells," says Andreas Thum about the successful research being carried out at the University of Konstanz. These new circuit connection patterns are already serving as the basis for additional research projects.

This article has been republished from materials provided by The University of Konstanz. Note: material may have been edited for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.