With the help of a quarter of a million video game players, researchers from the Princeton Neuroscience Institute (PNI) have created detailed maps containing more than 1,000 neurons. This mapping led scientists to discover new types of neurons.
Sebastian Seung, together with his colleagues from the Princeton Neuroscience Institute, will present an interactive neural archive, the Eyewire Museum, that will be available to both researchers and the public, according to the scientists.
“This Museum is like an atlas of the brain,” said Alexander Bae, a graduate and the co-author of the study.
“The previous atlases of the brain were not meant to see individual cells or a subset of cells. Another novelty is that not only their morphology is available but also data on the functions they have,” he added.
New types of neurons have been found, surprising the scientists
The human brain contains about 100 billion neurons, so the main task of the researchers was to provide a small but complex enough sample to illustrate the structure of the brain.
Therefore, ganglion cells from a mouse’s retina were used.
“Retina does not just receive light,” Seung said. He then explained that the neural circuits within the retina handle the first phases of visual perception. Also, retina grows from the same embryonic tissue as the brain and, although it is much simpler than it, it remains extremely complex.
The new study also allowed researchers to classify these neurons in greater detail. “The number of different cell types was a surprise,” said Shang Mu, a study investigator.
Thanks to their research, these scientists were able to detect more than 35 different types of neuron which, in comparison, to the 15-20 types of neural cells detected by previous studies is huge. Even more, scientists estimate there are up to 50 neural cell types.
Of all these, only 6 new types of neurons have been found, as there is no reference to them in medical literature.