As each year passes, our technology gets better, and so does our understanding of the complex, highly sensitive organs inside our skulls. The brain contains 100 billion neurons, and even more neuroglia, which makes studying it an incredibly difficult and lengthy task.
Scientists at the Queensland Brain Institute at The University of Queensland have released some of the most incredible images in neuroscience this year, from colourful neurons to glioblastomas. Take a scroll, and enjoy:
Understanding the characteristics of high-grade brain tumours is crucial to finding treatments for disease. High-resolution fluorescent imaging allows us to investigate how the normal brain cells become cancer cells and how they behave. This image demonstrates the infiltration process of the cancer cells (red) into the normal brain tissue (green).
In Alzheimer’s disease, tau protein (gold) becomes toxic as it builds up. It’s hard to believe these mesmerising, gem-like clusters can be so destructive.
The organisation of neurons in the hippocampus, a brain region important for learning and memory, looks like a forest in snow. The “snow” is made of cell nuclei, which contain each cell’s genetic material. The “trees” are the neurons’ projections, along which electrical signals travel to enable communication with other cells.
This section of a mouse spinal cord shows a diversity of neuron types. The smaller neurons in pink are involved in pain and the large green neurons are involved in movement.
The blue neuron, which could be a manta ray atop a coral reef, expresses a protein tagged with a fluorescent marker. The pink of surrounding cells is formed from endoplasmic reticulum, a cell structure important for processing and transporting proteins.
This image shows the activity of a single neuron (gold) in the brain region the cortex, recorded after the surrounding neurons (cream) are activated with a flash of light.
They may look like fireworks, but this image shows nanoscopic movements of single actin molecules. Actin is an essential protein found in all cells of plants and animals, in this case, a neurosecretory cell, a specialised type of nerve cell that releases message molecules into the blood.
The colourful image above shows the nanoscale movements of individual molecules that are critical in mediating communication between neurons. Knowing how these molecules are organised, and how they move, is at the heart of understanding the brain in health and disease.
This image shows diffusion tensor imaging, an MRI-based neuroimaging technique, revealling the fibre tracts through the corpus callosum in a rodent brain. The corpus callosum links the brain’s left and right hemispheres to each other. The colours represent the different directions that the tracts are travelling through the brain.
This is a side view of a mouse embryo’s brain. The axons of neurons (dark blue) that release dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in reward and pleasure, grow towards their target brain regions.