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Image of the Week: Fruit fly nervous system

3 Jul, 2015

Fruit-fly nervous system

Are you a scientist, photographer or artist? Submit your images now for the 2016 Wellcome Image Awards and they could reach a global audience. The winning images will go on display at science centres and public galleries around the world. Also introducing the new Julie Dorrington Award for outstanding clinical photography named in honour of one of the founding members of our clinical collection. We are looking for high quality imagery that relates to biomedical science and contemporary healthcare, and are interested in all artistic media and imaging techniques, from hand-drawn illustrations to super-resolution microscopy and functional MRI scans. Any images we receive before 9th September 2015 will be considered for the 2016 Awards. For more information see our website or email Sabrina Taner.

To inspire you, this week’s image focuses on one of our 2015 Award winners. Is it science? Is it art? Or is it both? Reminiscent of a Jackson Pollock painting, it is in fact part of the central nervous system in a fruit fly. To capture this image, thin, sequential slices of tissue from a fruit fly larva were first imaged by transmission electron microscopy (serial section TEM) and then reconstructed to make a digital 3D model. In this model, different structures were digitally traced or outlined and then colour-coded to form a map of the neural circuits in the area.

An organism’s nervous system controls everything it does, from breathing and moving to thinking and feeling. Instructions to perform these tasks are carried by cells called neurones. A neurone able to sense vibrations (yellow) is surrounded here by lots of other neurones, each depicted as a single line. Messages enter (blue circles) and exit (red circles) neurones at points of contact called synapses. Other features of interest (orange circles), such as mitochondria, are also marked, which together reveal just how complex connections in the nervous system can be.

This image was taken by Albert Cardona, a group leader at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus in Ashburn, Virginia, USA. Albert’s group studies neural circuit structure and function using electrophysiology, genetics and behaviour.

New for the Wellcome Image Awards in 2016 is the launch of the Julie Dorrington Award for outstanding clinical photography named in honour of one of the founding members of our clinical collection. With this award we not only honour Julie’s contribution to Wellcome but also to the clinical photography profession and the service that it provides to medicine and medical education.

Image credit: Albert Cardona, HHMI Janelia Research Campus/Wellcome Images

Wellcome Images is one of the world’s richest and most unusual collections, with themes ranging from medical and social history to contemporary healthcare and biomedical science. All our images are available in digital form so please click the link above if you would like to use the picture that features in this post, or to quickly find related ones. Many are free to use non-commercially under the terms of a Creative Commons licence and full details of the specific licence for each image are provided.

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