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Scientists mapped a brain the size of half a grain and found it held a staggering 1.4 million GB of data

The results of the research indicate the power of the human brain and have shocked everyone around the world.

Scientists mapped a brain the size of half a grain and found it held a staggering 1.4 million GB of data
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | Anna Shvets

The human brain, a marvel of complexity, stores immense volumes of information. Recently, researchers have made a startling discovery that showcased a small part of the human brain in amazing detail, per Smithsonian Magazine. The team has published their results in the Science journal and made the data available online, coupled with tools to allow readers to get a deeper understanding of the data. Jeff Lichtman, co-author of the study and biologist at Harvard University, spoke to Popular Science about how the data did not feel small because further study revealed it to be like a "gigantic forest."

Representative Image Source: Pexels | cottonbro studio
Representative Image Source: Pexels | cottonbro studio

The team made use of a brain tissue sample that was surgically retrieved from a person. The map that they have put together showcases a cubic millimeter of the human brain, which roughly means that it is half the size of a grain of rice. Despite its minuscule size, the sample astonishingly contained 1.4 million gigabytes of information. The sample comprised approximately 57,000 cells, 230 millimeters of blood vessels, and 150 million synapses. Viren Jain, a neuroscientist and co-author of the study, reflected on the findings and shared with Nature News how it was "humbling."

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Anna Shvets
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Anna Shvets

Jain then expressed their concern about how one could come to terms with these new findings. This is not the first map of a brain to be made in the scientific community. The 302 neurons of a roundworm were mapped by researchers back in 1986, as per a Google blog post by Jain. They have also done the same with the brains of a zebra finch and zebrafish larvae. This particular brain tissue was taken from a person diagnosed with epilepsy. A surgeon operated on the patient's hippocampus region and removed the tissue from the left anterior temporal lobe.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Pixabay
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Pixabay

The team employed an electron microscope to intricately map 5,000 tissue slices, each just 30 nanometres thick. This was no easy task for the research team, and it took them over 11 months to put together. Artificial intelligence algorithms were made to reconstruct the cells and connections in a three-dimensional setting. Lichtman spoke to the Guardian and said, "The aim was to get a high-resolution view of this most mysterious piece of biology that each of us carries around on our shoulders."

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Christina Morillo
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Christina Morillo

He also noted the lack of prior research in this domain, attributing it to the daunting challenge of brain mapping. Micheal Hawrylycz, a computational neuroscientist at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, spoke to MIT Technology Review in an interview and commented on how brain mapping was the most "computer-intensive work in all of neuroscience." Thanks to an incredible amount of hard work, the researchers were able to find very useful findings that could have very important implications for a better understanding of the human brain. They discovered neurons at certain sites connected by over 50 synapses.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Olia Danilevich
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Olia Danilevich

This unusual finding could offer researchers new insights into how the human brain processes learning. Examination of the tissue revealed axons—message-transmitting tendrils—forming unusual knots. Similar studies on other tissue samples could yield even more amazing results. The team intends to conduct a similar study on the hippocampus of a mouse. But that can be done slowly as they still unravel intricate secrets of the human brain with the tissue sample they already have.

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