Friday, May 13, 2011

The Brainbow!

This is the third post of a three-part series on fluorescent proteins and neurobiology. The first part is on Osamu Shimomura and the second on the mutations made in the proteins (shiny pictures included).

Today? Today is... the BRAINBOW!

Brainbow image of hippocampal neurons. Courtesy of Jeff Lichtman/Harvard University

This, my friend, is what your brain looks like. Or, well, what it would look like if we used the fluorescent proteins in it.

You remember how last Tuesday I explained they could add a fluorescent protein to any other, making it easy to detect? And you remember the various colours created through genetic mutations? (If you don't, link at the top.)

Well, the Brainbow is perhaps the most spectacular use of this technique. Each individual neuron expresses a different amount of the red, blue and green mutants of the original GFP. Because the mix is not the same in each neuron, the resulting colour varies with every single neuron.

You can see, the result is striking. Since the technique was developped in 2007, multiple pictures were taken, some winning scientific images awards.

So here are some others, for your enjoyment!

Brainbow image of the dentate gyrus. Courtesy of Jeff Lichtman/Harvard University

Confocal microscopy by Tamily A. Weissman

I don't know for you, guys, but at this point I just call this art. Brainbow pictures give me an instant geekgasm. Neurons! With colours! Not to mention, this highlights the amazing complexity of our brains, and how much we've yet to learn about ourselves.

Kudos to the scientists working tirelessly on it. I'm too busy staring at the pretty picture!


  1. Lisa Frank just colored my brain. I can die happy.

  2. Wow, those are beautiful. I can imagine you hanging those on the wall for art!

  3. Raquelin: I had to look Lisa Frank up but... LOL, so true, so true.

    LG: ... ... Why did I never think about that? We have glassed-over paper here, and a great printer here. Hmmmmmmmm, I have to consider this.

  4. Wow. I'll sure have a different view next time I look in the mirror!!!

  5. These pictures (and ideas) are amazing ! Such a fascinating world we live in.

  6. Don't know how I missed this. Those pictures are amazing!
    From this moment forward, I'm going to think of my brain as a rainbow.

  7. Better that than to think as a mass of greyish squishy cells. ;)