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To say the brain is a highly complex organ would be an understatement. We use animal models to investigate how the brain functions at the level of its constituent neurons. This has led to the detailed investigation of specific brain pathways in organisms as diverse as monkeys, mice, octopodes, and even flies. It is in simpler organisms like fruit flies where we have accumulated the most detailed knowledge, although even this is vastly incomplete. A significant issue is that we are still unaware of the types of neurons that make up a brain and how these fit together. The recent fruit fly hemibrain connectome, published on bioRxiv by scientists at Janelia Campus alongside Google, represents a significant step towards solving this problem. Their work has resulted in a catalog of neurons and their connections from a section of a fly brain that spans key regions devoted to navigation, memory and motor control. Essentially, this connectome is a roadmap of the fly brain, providing structural knowledge which neuroscientists can use to disentangle how the organisation of the brain contributes to its function. Much like the rapid progress in genetics that followed the publication of the first genome, this connectome may lead us to a similar leap forward for neuroscience.

By: Billy Morris