Biologists develop a new method for analyzing brain images and demonstrate it with a study on fruit flies
Using the example of the fruit fly, a team of biologists led by Prof. Dr. Andrew Straw has identified patterns in the genetic activity of brain cells and taken them as a basis for drawing conclusions about the structure of the brain. The research, published in Current Biology, was conducted at the University of Freiburg and at the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP) in Vienna, Austria.
This image shows the fly brain and several different types of neurons involved in bringing visual information from the eyes. The authors developed a new technique which allowed them to automatically identify specific regions of the fly brain involved in visual processing. Each color shows a group of neurons which target such brain regions.
Image: Andrew Straw, Karin Panser
The brain of a fruit fly contains many different regions responsible for processing sight, smell, and taste, in addition to regions for controlling movement. This image shows the results of a new method which automatically identifies these brain regions. Each color represents a different brain region. The authors used this method to discover specific areas involved in processing of visual information in the fly. The technique could also be used to refine our understanding of vertebrate brains.
Image: Andrew Straw, Karin Panser
The newly developed method focuses on enhancers, DNA segments responsible for enhancing transcription of RNA at specific locations and developmental times in an organism. The research started with a database of three-dimensional images showing individual enhancer activity. The team used an automatic pattern finding algorithm to identify genetic activity patterns shared across the images.
They noticed that, in some cases, these patterns seemed to correspond with specific brain regions. To demonstrate the functionality of their method, the biologists began by applying it to regions of the fruit fly brain whose anatomy is already well known – namely, those responsible for the sense of smell. The activity patterns of the enhancers traced the already familiar anatomy of these regions.
Then the biologists used the new method to study brain regions responsible for vision. These experiments led to new insights into the anatomy of these areas: In addition to eleven already known regions, the activity patterns of the enhancers revealed 14 new regions, each of which presumably serves a different function for the fruit fly’s sense of sight. The researchers now aim to conduct further studies to determine which regions are responsible for which functions.
Andrew Straw has served since January 2016 as professor of behavioral neurobiology and animal physiology at the University of Freiburg’s Faculty of Biology and is a member of the Bernstein Center Freiburg (BCF). Before their move to Freiburg, he and his research assistants Karin Panser and Dr. Laszlo Tirian worked at the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology in Vienna in collaboration with Dr. Florian Schulze, Virtual Reality and Visualization Research Center GmbH (VRVis).
The goal of Straw’s research is to achieve a better understanding of the structure and function of the brain. He hopes this basic research will ultimately help in the design of therapies for patients suffering from neurological diseases affecting specific regions of the brain.
Results and visualizations:
Panser, K./Tirian, L./Schulze, F./Villalba, S./Jefferis, G./Bühler, K./Straw, A. (2016): Automatic segmentation of Drosophila neural compartments using GAL4 expression data reveals novel visual pathways. In: Current Biology.
Prof. Dr. Andrew Straw
Institute of Biology I (Zoology)
University of Freiburg
Phone: +49 (0)761/203-67685
Rudolf-Werner Dreier | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
Modern genetic sequencing tools give clearer picture of how corals are related
17.08.2017 | University of Washington
The irresistible fragrance of dying vinegar flies
16.08.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
17.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
17.08.2017 | Earth Sciences
17.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy