Chinese scientists recently created the most detailed map of monkey brain cell types ever made. The map, which shows how different cells are distributed, will help scientists understand how the brain works.
The creation of the map is the result of intensive research by scientists. This provides a molecular cellular basis for further study of the connections between different types of neurons, and could provide insights into research into brain diseases including Alzheimer’s disease and depression, the scientists said.
A paper reporting the results was published Wednesday on the journal Cell’s website. The landmark study was conducted by scientists from several institutions, including the Center for Excellence in Brain Science and Intelligence Technology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, BGI Group, Linggang Laboratory, Shanghai Brain Center, Tencent AI Laboratory and Karolinska Institutet. In Sweden.
The primate brain has many neurons, forming a complex, delicate, and specific neural circuit that supports high-level cognition and behavior.
Compared to other species, primates have higher cognitive and social abilities, as well as a larger cortex and more cell types. For example, the macaque—a genus closely related to humans—has a brain that contains more than 6 billion neurons.
The brain is composed of a variety of cells that can be classified based on their molecular, morphological, or physiological characteristics. These cells are also distributed in different parts of the brain.
Analyzing the composition and spatial distribution of these cell subsets is important for understanding how the brain is organized. This is because different cell types have different functions, and the way they are distributed in the brain can affect how they communicate with each other.
Scientists have discovered that the distribution of cells in the cerebral cortex is not random. In fact, it is highly specific for different cortical layers and brain regions. This specificity is more pronounced in primates, where certain types of cells are found only in certain layers.
Scientists have discovered a correlation between cell type composition and the hierarchical organization of brain regions. This means that brain regions within the same hierarchy often have similar cell type compositions.
For example, scientists have discovered that the fourth layer of the cerebral cortex in primates contains unique types of excitatory neurons that are highly expressed in genes associated with human diseases. Li Chengyu, the paper’s corresponding author and a senior researcher at the Center for Excellence in Brain Science and Intelligence Technology, said the discovery could help scientists better understand the causes of these diseases.
Scientists used a new technique called spatial transcriptome sequencing to study the distribution of cells in the cerebral cortex. This technology allows scientists to see the distribution of cells at very high resolution.
Brain science, which remains in its relative infancy, is an important part of China’s innovation initiative proposed two years ago, said Pu Muming, CAS scientific director at the Center for Excellence in Brain Science and Intelligence Technology.
“Research on mapping neural connections across the entire brain is of great scientific importance and could serve to guide the prevention and treatment of brain diseases and the development of intelligent technology,” Poo said.
Li said the team will conduct further research into brain disease mechanisms — which could help scientists design complementary drugs — and cell and structural evolution to better understand brain functions.