Google/Lichtman Laboratory

There are more connections between neurons within the brain than stars in a galaxy, making the ole’ noggin the most complex supercomputer known to man.

The mapping of the connections required more than a million gigabytes data and over 225 million images in order to do it within one millimeter cerebral cortex tissue.

The 3D images were created by researchers from Harvard’s Lichtman Lab. It is hoped that this technique can be reproduced sufficiently to create a puzzle about the human brain, which is being called “connectome”.

It is not exaggerated that the connectome can take us all our lives. Completing the connectome would require a C. elegans worm that possesses just 302 neurons required 12 terabytes of data. Google, along with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute has taken a swing at a fruit fly connectome which contains around 100,000 neurons. To manage the fruit fly brain’s half, it took 100 terabytes.


Here a 2D image of the C. This is how machine learning and science gubbins extrapolate the brain matter of C. elegans to create a 3-D map.

This is a lot more detail

The human brain is much more complex than its invertebrate cousins’, with between 100-86 billion neurons as well as 100 trillion synapses (electrical interchanges between cells) that can generate signals and electrical signals.

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Nevertheless, taking a one millimeter cubed section of cerebral cortex, the researchers coated it in resin, and cut it into about 5,300 individual slices each about 30 nanometers thick in order to reduce the detail low enough to image with an electron microscope. It took them over 200 million images to complete the 3D model.

H01 dataset (or as it’s known) measures 1.4 Petabytes. It has 50,000 cells and 130 Million synapses. It is the largest ever complete view of a brain part.

Some interesting observations were made such as the fact that glial cells (a brain-specialized immune system cell) outnumbered neurons by two to one. These can be studied in a prereview paper on BioRxiv.

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Google has produced a video that shows a zooming process that highlights different aspects at different levels.

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