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SciShots: A crown of neurons

Brain-wide neuron tracing of cells in the mouse claustrum, a mysterious structure that’s highly connected to the rest of the brain

February 25, 2022

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Tracing the complete shape of a neuron is a daunting task. This specialized brain cell’s branching extensions, known as its axon and dendrites, can reach in many different directions in the brain; in some cases, axons can extend across the entire brain or even the entire body, stretching from the brain down the spine. A recent study led by researchers at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in collaboration with Wenzhou Medical University and Southeast University in China captured the full extent of more than 1700 mouse neurons. In one extreme example, shown above, the research team traced the full extent of several neurons in the mouse claustrum, a thin but highly connected structure in the brain that sits right below the cortex, the wrinkled outermost shell of the brain. Their work revealed that some of these claustrum neurons wrap their axons entirely around the mouse cortex, forming a crown-like structure. Understanding how and where cells’ axons reside in the brain will help scientists better understand the connections those cells make, a critical attribute to classifying the neurons themselves. Read more about the study in our news story.  

Microscopic viewpoints, computer-generated models, intricate tracings and more — see a new side of science with SciShots.


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