We aim to map an entire human brain at sub-cellular resolution revealing the connections of this neuronal network. This feat is made possible by synchrotron x-ray microscopy though image acquisition at 3mm per minute and 0.3um resolution.

“Synchrotron for Neuroscience – an Asia Pacific Strategic Enterprise” (SYNAPSE)

SYNAPSE is a coalition of synchrotron facilities including Pohang Light Source (Korea), Shanghai Synchrotron Radiation Facility, SPring-8 (Japan), Singapore Synchrotron Light Source, Taiwan Photon Source, Australia Synchrotron, Synchrotron Light Research Institute (Thailand) and SESAME (Jordan) organized to pursue the grand challenge of mapping large animal and human brains. These synchrotron facilities are supported by the local neurobiology and computing institutions to optimize the impact of the mapping results. SYNAPSE was launched on January 15th, 2020, in Singapore, with the signature of the agreements and the public announcement of the key objective of bringing the first wiring map by 2024.

What is our objective?

We plan to map the neuron network of one entire human brain at sub-cellular level (neurons and major connections). This historical target is now realistic thanks to the recent performances of synchrotron x-ray microtomography: 0.3 micrometer resolution at 1 mm3/min image taking speed. However, even with this level of performance, mapping one human brain would still take a very long time and generate a huge amount of data. To tackle these problems, SYNAPSE adopts a strategy of simultaneous image acquisition and data management coordinated with several synchrotrons. SYNAPSE will develop and improve new brain imaging technologies with faster imaging speed and integration of other 3D imaging methods with molecular, functional, and/or nanoscale resolution, preparing for the next phase of large scale human brain mapping.

What is the impact to science and society?

The historical mission of mapping a human brain is also the first step to understand its functions, i.e., the incredible cognition and intelligence which is not generated by the mere combination of individual neurons but by the collective action of a massive, interactive network. The impact of SYNAPSE's work extends far beyond scientific discovery. This could lead to effective therapies for brain diseases, a planetary problem with huge social impact. Furthermore, by generating advanced imaging technology, new computational strategies, and artificial intelligence, SYNAPSE aims to accelerate the translation of scientific discoveries into practical solutions for society.

Further information about the SYNAPSE project can be found in SYNAPSE: An international roadmap to large brain imaging. Physics Reports, 999 (2023).