Making sense of the brain’s circuits

“The brain is one of the most intricate machines that exist, and we still don’t know how it works”, says Carles Bosch Piñol, senior neuroscientist at the Francis Crick Institute in London. His research focuses on understanding how neuronal circuits receive, process and propagate information to drive behaviour. This information is encoded by hierarchical structures of sizes ranging from millimetres (neural circuits) and hundreds of microns (neuronal dendritic trees) to few nanometres (synapses). “We came to the ESRF’s ID16A beamline to find out how these circuits work”, he explains.

Bosch and his colleagues just finished a successful remote experiment. Previous experiments with the same sample provided information on how the neurons in that circuit responded to stimuli, and synchrotron imaging with full-field tomography revealed sub-µm detail on the circuit’s structure. At ESRF they wanted to obtain an even more detailed insight of the structure using X-ray holotomography, which would allow to resolve a very important subset of neuronal cables.

Read more on the ESRF website

Image: Planned acquisition of a neural circuit with holotomography. Diagram showing a top view of the specimen (edges in navy blue) and its regions of interest (in vivo recorded cell bodies in brown, genetically-tagged glomerulus in white). Tiles were planned and priority-ranked (a) with enough overlap so they can be all stitched into a single continuous volume dataset (b). (c-d) Lateral dendrites (green, nucleus in brown) are resolved (c) and can be followed until exiting the tile (d).

Credit: C. Bosch