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
'Y' a protein unicorn might matter in glaucoma
23.10.2017 | Georgia Institute of Technology
Microfluidics probe 'cholesterol' of the oil industry
23.10.2017 | Rice University
Salmonellae are dangerous pathogens that enter the body via contaminated food and can cause severe infections. But these bacteria are also known to target...
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
23.10.2017 | Event News
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
23.10.2017 | Life Sciences
23.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.10.2017 | Health and Medicine