Advanced Brain Imaging Brings Hope for Alzheimer’s and Autism 

Advanced Brain Imaging Brings Hope for Alzheimer's and Autism. Credit | University of South Florida
Advanced Brain Imaging Brings Hope for Alzheimer's and Autism. Credit | University of South Florida

United States: The neuroscientists at the University of Florida have come up with a new approach of mapping the brain that can assist in the identification of diseases like Alzheimer’s, autism, and other disorders and can also offer a glimmer of light to the patients with traumatic brain injury. 

More about the news 

A team from the University of South Florida’s (USF) Auditory Development and Connectomics Laboratory is harnessing virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence to generate a high-definition chronology of billions of neurons’ trip in the newborn mice’s brains, the Guardian reported. 

Further, advanced imaging technology generates detailed three-dimensional diagrams of the developmental timeline of the early brain, which are then fed to current large language AI models and reviewed for alterations. In this regard, rodents have the same types of neurons and interconnectivity as humans. 

Advanced Brain Imaging Brings Hope for Alzheimer's and Autism. Credit | Getty Images
Advanced Brain Imaging Brings Hope for Alzheimer’s and Autism. Credit | Getty Images

Moreover, it is based on the calyx of Held, the largest terminal of the neurons in the brains of all mammals, which is involved in auditory processing. It is a well-known fact that it is the hearing problem that causes the symptoms of the disorders such as autism and leads to social and cognitive developmental problems. 

According to Dr George Spirou, professor of medical engineering at USF, who also compared the imagery to a road map said, “The information can help us understand serious developmental disorders that happen when the brain doesn’t develop properly early on,” as the Guardian reported. 

Moreover, “It’s like you have a route from, say, New York to Chicago, and someone detours in Cleveland. You can figure out why there was some off-ramp that shouldn’t have been there and go back and fix it.” 

“Maybe we’ll find the keys to some developmental disorders. And in the situation of traumatic physical injury or neural degeneration, is there a way that we can kind of recapitulate development?” he added. 

“If we could trick a part of the brain into thinking it’s developing and needs to grow more synapses, that might be therapeutic. Without succeeding totally in that realm, it’s a guess, but certainly it seems reasonable,” explained Spirou. 

More about the VR software 

Spirou and his team members who have over four decades of experience in the field of brain research have designed a VR software that helps in analyzing the neurons that were captured in the images and by looking at the synapses where they meet and share information. 

It is important to note that even though neural systems in mammals have been researched extensively, such temporal and spatial analysis has not been done before, he said. 

He added, “Between the fourth and fifth gestational months, the number of neurons in the nervous system just explodes almost exponentially, and synapses form at a rate of about a million per second, an incredible number when you consider there are almost 100tn synapses in an adult human brain,” the Guardian reported. 

“The VR platform imports huge amounts of data and allows users to look at it and understand it in 3D. There’s just no way to do it on a 2D screen,” further added.