A giant neuron found wrapped around entire mouse brain

Feb 27, 2017

By Sara Reardon

Like ivy plants that send runners out searching for something to cling to, the brain’s neurons send out shoots that connect with other neurons throughout the organ. A new digital reconstruction method shows three neurons that branch extensively throughout the brain, including one that wraps around its entire outer layer. The finding may help to explain how the brain creates consciousness.

Christof Koch, president of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, Washington, explained his group’s new technique at a 15 February meeting of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies initiative in Bethesda, Maryland. He showed how the team traced three neurons from a small, thin sheet of cells called the claustrum — an area that Koch believes acts as the seat of consciousness in mice and humans1.

Tracing all the branches of a neuron using conventional methods is a massive task. Researchers inject individual cells with a dye, slice the brain into thin sections and then trace the dyed neuron’s path by hand. Very few have been able to trace a neuron through the entire organ. This new method is less invasive and scalable, saving time and effort.

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One comment on “A giant neuron found wrapped around entire mouse brain”

  • This is truly fascinating. The claustrum gives every indication of being the clock/coordinator (perhaps more a phase locked loop of a clock prompted from outside) that helps bind experience, drawing different cognitions together into related and unrelated. It seems to allow, perhaps, the totally independent processes of facial identity and friend-or-foe detection to fuse. It seems to integrate this sound with that sight, and that process derived from that sight. This would make it the essential substrate of consciousness and in permitting more complex valuations of saliency than the simply, reliably reflexive, ultimately the facilitator of agency.

    The simple fact of such global interconnection is another downer for the Penrose /Hameroff’s. This is one less problem for quantum entangled neurons to solve.

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