Douglas Roossien, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow (Cai Laboratory), Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, University of Michigan Medical School
Neurons in the brain do not function alone. Multiple neurons join together to form circuits through long cable-like structures called axons and dendrites. These circuits work as integrated units to control bodily functions, store memories and allow us to learn new tasks. Determining the structure of these circuits and discovering how they are formed during development, how they change as tasks are learned and how they might be regenerated after damage or disease are major goals of the Obama BRAIN initiative. Images such as this one are helping to map out these circuits; the colors are generated by genetically expressing a random combination of fluorescent proteins in a mouse brain so that each neuron is a unique color. The neurons shown here form circuits in the hypothalamus and regulate food intake and body weight. How such circuits malfunction in obesity and metabolic disorders is currently a subject of intense research.