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Visualization of Drosophila’s Mind: Taiwan Develops Novel Optical Microscopies

By Korbin Lan
Published: Mar 11,2020

Brain, which governs our mind and behaviors, is arguably the most important organ in our body, but is also the functionally least understood one. Although the function of a single neuron or interaction of a few neurons have been well studied, the number of neurons ranges from hundred thousands in drosophila to billions in human brains, and the emerging properties from the massive connection among these neurons are unknown yet. The main obstacle is lacking a suitable tool that allows us to observe the physiological dynamics of brain with enough spatiotemporal resolution.

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Under the support of the “Disease-oriented Brain and Mind Research Program” (2016 – 2019) and “Taiwan Brain Technology Development and International Raising Program” (2019 – 2021) (MOST, R.O.C.), Prof. Shi-Wei Chu (Physics, NTU) established an interdisciplinary team, including Prof. Meng-Lin Li (EE, NTHU), Prof. Shang-Da Yang (EE, NTHU), Prof. Shun-Chi Wu (Engineering and System Science, NTHU), Prof. Ming-Che Chan (Photonics, NCTU), and Dr. Yen-Yin Lin (JelloX Co.), to develop novel optical micro-imaging platform to study Drosophila brain, whose neural network connection is similar to human brain. The platform features high temporal and spatial resolutions that are capable to capture physiological dynamics of neurons in an intact living Drosophila brain.

Currently the whole research team is devoted to develop novel optical techniques under the support of the “Taiwan Brain Technology Development and International Raising Program” (2019 – 2021) (MOST, R.O.C.). In addition, we work closely with MOST- and MoE-funded NTHU “Brain Research Center” (2018-2023), which was led by Academician Ann-Shyn Chiang (Systems Neuroscience, NTHU). Their future goal is to realize observation of “functional whole-brain connectome” in Drosophila, i.e. the connections among every single neuron during learning and memory formation, with high temporal resolution (millisecond), high spatial resolution (sub-micrometer to nanometer), and high penetration depth (millimeter), to unravel the mysteries of brain function.

The deep-tissue super-solution imaging can distinguish two tightly entangled neural fibers in an intact brain tissue. The inset shows conventional confocal imaging of the same neural fibers, whose structures are not differentiated at all.

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