Newswise — MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – For the first time, The Journal of Neuroscience cover on Aug. 7 will feature an image taken from an animated video. The video is hosted on The Journal’s website and was created by a team of researchers from the West Virginia University Center for Neuroscience.
This cover is the first in a series of three that will feature videos from the study “Synaptic Inputs Compete During Rapid Formation of the Calyx of Held: a New Model System for Neural Development,” which was co-authored by researchers from WVU and the University of California – San Diego (UCSD) and led by George A. Spirou, Ph.D., director of the WVU Center for Neuroscience. Paul Holcomb, a neurobiology graduate student in the Spirou lab, is the study’s first author.
The first video shows nanoscale-resolution images from serial block-face scanning electron microscopy (SBEM) of the developing auditory brainstem during the first few days of mouse development. SBEM is new technology that permits visualizing the wiring of the brain in 3D with resolution of several nanometers, or about the size of a protein molecule. One single image volume can require up to 2 TB of computer storage space; new data sets that will each be at least triple this size are currently being collected by Dr. Spirou’s group using the microscopes at UCSD.
“The era of really big data has come to biology through studies of brain structure; it’s very cool and challenging, made possible by advances in computing speed but pushing the need for even faster computers and rapid access storage of huge files. We are on the road to understand more about what’s happening within the brain as it develops. This new field of mapping brain circuitry at the nanoscale is called Connectomics,” Spirou said. “SBEM and related new technologies are opening new ways to look at brain-based disorders, such as epilepsy, schizophrenia, depression, etc. Eventually, as image volumes become much larger, we’ll be able to see where the human brain’s wiring went wrong and understand the neural basis for these pathologies. This is just the first step, but it’s a big step.”
The image on the Aug. 7 cover depicts the calyx of Held partially extracted from the image volume. The calyx of Held is the largest nerve ending in the mammalian brain and is located in the auditory central nervous system.
Each video featuring WVU research also includes an original score by musician Bill Mallers.
“When he saw the video, he was really impressed by the visuals and asked if he could compose some music,” Spirou said. “Each score has a very different sound that reflects his interpretation of each video. As he explained it, the purpose of the music is to draw the viewer through the visual scenes.”
The videos will be available online at www.sfn.org. A smartphone QR code will be printed next to the study in the journal and will link to the video when scanned. The second and third videos will be posted Aug. 14 and Aug. 21 along with print covers for each Journal issue taken from those movies.