Researchers collaborating on the Connectome Project at the Center for Brain Science aim to create a complete wiring diagram of all the neurons in a healthy human brain. Such a map would empower neuroscientists to study the causes and mechanisms of thought, behavior, memory, aging, and mental illness—knowledge that could fundamentally alter our conception of “self.”
To build the Connectome, one strategy involves capturing electron micrographs of very thin slices of brain tissue and then reassembling those images into a three-dimensional model. However, these images are so detailed, and the slices so thin, that digitally manipulating them requires a new type of software that can focus on very small portions at a time. Hanspeter Pfister, An Wang Professor of Computer Science at SEAS, has been creating this tool.