03 October 2014
This brightly-coloured zebrafish brain highlights a challenge for cutting-edge biomedical research – new technologies can capture more and more information, but making sense of it all is often daunting. A sudden movement in front of this fish’s eyes caused genetically-engineered sensors in its neurons [brain cells] to light up with patterns of activity. Interpreting this sensorimotor response inside millions of neurons required a cluster of power computers. Here a new software package, called Thunder, reveals distinct patterns of activity highlighted in different colours, with the brightness of each of the neurons (coloured blobs) showing the strength of its response. Recording simultaneous (but different) patterns of activity in brain regions such as the optic tectum (green) and lateral hindbrain (pink) with light-sheet microscopy was vital to this improved picture of how the brain works – but so too were the analytical methods used to make sense of such big data.
Written by John Ankers