Open source computational tools and imaging methods that enable large-scale analysis of whole-brain neuronal activity at the cellular level in alert zebrafish are reported this week in Nature Methods. These methods are crucial for easy and quick analysis of very large data sets of brain activity, a goal of the US National Institute of Health’s BRAIN Initiative.
Misha Ahrens and colleagues utilized distributed computing technology, in which numerous networked computers work together to accomplish a task, to create a set of easy-to-use tools to analyse brain activity. This methodology allows for the analysis of data sets in seconds to minutes that would otherwise take hours to analyse. They then combined this with a system for whole-brain functional imaging at the cellular level for alert zebrafish. The authors report that they found previously undocumented patterns in the brain activity of these fish. These technical developments will allow neuroscientists to obtain new insights into how the brain functions.