Researchers capture high-resolution image of a complete fruit fly brain

Z. Zheng et al./Cell 2018

Scientists have created a high-resolution image of a fruit fly brain that will let researchers trace the connections of neurons throughout the brain. A team at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus led the work, which was recently published in Cell. Davi Bock, the lead researcher on the project, said in a statement that this level of resolution hasn’t been achieved before and it will allow scientists to better understand which neurons play a role in behaviors exhibited by fruit flies.

Though a fly brain is relatively small — about the size of a poppy seed — creating a detailed map of the 100,000 neurons it holds is still a major challenge, and traditional methods haven’t allowed for this type of imaging to be done. The researchers developed a new set of tools that included high-speed cameras, custom-built systems that can quickly process brain tissue samples and a robotic loader that can pick up samples and put them into place on its own. Doing so required dozens of scientists, engineers and software developers and years of work.