Scientists in Japan’s brain science project have used machine intelligence to improve the accuracy and reliability of a powerful brain-mapping technique, a new study reports. Their development, published on December 18th in Scientific Reports, gives researchers more confidence in using the technique to untangle the human brain’s wiring and to better understand the changes in this wiring that accompany neurological or mental disorders such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease.
To identify connectomes, researchers track nerve cell fibers that extend throughout the brain. In animal experiments, scientists can inject a fluorescent tracer into multiple points in the brain and image where the nerve fibers originating from these points extend to. But this process requires analyzing hundreds of brain slices from many animals. And because it is so invasive, it cannot be used in humans, explained Prof. Doya.