Thanks to high-powered microscopes, researchers are now able to spy on individual nerve cells (neurons) and map out the connections between them. But that’s a tricky and painstaking task if you’re dealing with 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion connections in a whole human brain. To speed up the process, scientists have called in help from a quarter of a million video gamers to map out the twisted connections between more than 3,000 nerve cells. They’re playing Eyewire, a game using real imaging data gathered from a small sliver of nerve tissue taken from the back of a mouse’s eye. So far the players have discovered several entirely new types of cell and made detailed maps of connections between neurons, including this one between a ganglion neuron (blue) and a starburst amacrine cell (yellow), showing that you don’t have to work in a lab to help out with vital science.
Written by Kat Arney
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.