Posted by Tim Blakely, Software Engineer and Michał Januszewski, Research Scientist, Connectomics at Google
In January 2020 we released the fly “hemibrain” connectome — an online database providing the morphological structure and synaptic connectivity of roughly half of the brain of a fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster). This database and its supporting visualization has reframed the way that neural circuits are studied and understood in the fly brain. While the fruit fly brain is small enough to attain a relatively complete map using modern mapping techniques, the insights gained are, at best, only partially informative to understanding the most interesting object in neuroscience — the human brain.
Today, in collaboration with the Lichtman Laboratory at Harvard University, we are releasing the “H01” dataset, a 1.4 petabyte rendering of a small sample of human brain tissue, along with a companion paper, “A connectomic study of a petascale fragment of human cerebral cortex.” The H01 sample was imaged at 4nm-resolution by serial section electron microscopy, reconstructed and annotated by automated computational techniques, and analyzed for preliminary insights into the structure of the human cortex. The dataset comprises imaging data that covers roughly one cubic millimeter of brain tissue, and includes tens of thousands of reconstructed neurons, millions of neuron fragments, 130 million annotated synapses, 104 proofread cells, and many additional subcellular annotations and structures — all easily accessible with the Neuroglancer browser interface. H01 is thus far the largest sample of brain tissue imaged and reconstructed in this level of detail, in any species, and the first large-scale study of synaptic connectivity in the human cortex that spans multiple cell types across all layers of the cortex. The primary goals of this project are to produce a novel resource for studying the human brain and to improve and scale the underlying connectomics technologies.
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