If brain imaging could be compared to Google Earth, neuroscientists would already have a pretty good “Satellite view” of the brain, and a great “Street view” of neuron details.
Now, a research team led by Eva Dyer, a computational neuroscientist and electrical engineer, has imaged brains at that map-like or “Meso” scale using the most powerful X-ray beams in the country.
The imaging scale gives an overview of the intercellular landscape of the brain at a level relevant to small neural networks, which are at the core of the brain’s ability to compute.
A powerful X-ray tomography scanner allowed the researchers to image particularly thick sections of the brains of mice, which afforded them views into intact neural areas much larger than are customary in microscope imaging.
First, the thick section of brain rotated in the high-energy X-ray beam, which was transformed into an image analogous to the output of a CT scanner.
It may be possible to examine minuscule brain regions piece by piece with electron microscopes then compute them together into a complete image of the brain, but it’s hardly practical.
By contrast, the researchers need 100 gigabytes of data to compute a one-cubic-millimeter image of brain tissue using mesoscale X-ray tomography scans of thicker brain sections.