PerspectiveNeuroscience

The Mind of a Male?

Science  27 Jul 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6093, pp. 416-417
DOI: 10.1126/science.1225853

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Summary

When a major computer chip manufacturer brings a new integrated circuit to the market, its competitors often rush to reverse-engineer the chip to understand how it works. They shave off thin layers of the semiconductor material while imaging each newly revealed surface under an electron microscope. By tracing the wires in the electron micrographs, computer engineers assemble the wiring diagram of the chip, which allows them to eventually deduce its function. Similarly, neuroscientists hope to gain insights into the way the nervous system generates behavior by reconstructing its wiring diagram. Like the solid-state wires in computer chips, biological “wires” that carry electrical signals are tens of nanometers in diameter, requiring electron microscopes and ultrathin sectioning to image them. On page 437 of this issue, Jarrell et al. (1) use this approach to reconstruct the nervous system in the tail of a male Caenorhabditis elegans roundworm.