Tiny mouse yields largest neural network ever mapped

A miniscule chunk of visual cortex belonging to a nameless tiny brown mouse is providing new insights into the secrets of the brain and its complex neural connections.

Three dozen researchers from Harvard and the Allen Institute of Brain Science spent the better part of 10 years tracing the paths of 1,278 connected neurons in the largest-ever neural network to be mapped using advanced imaging techniques, according to results recently published in Nature.

“It had 50 central neurons, characterized according to function … And it could connect those neurons and their branching arms to hundreds of other neurons,” wrote Katie Palmer in an article for tech website Wired. “All in all, the team reconstructed 990 synapses—the connection points between neurons—and they were able to derive some first principles about neuronal organization.”

As technology advances, neuroscientists could someday be able to map 10,000 or 100,000 or even more neural connections—and better understand the mysterious inner workings of the brain. 

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