A new virtual reality imaging system developed in Europe offers an immersive 3D technique for exploring the brain. With exacting resolution — down to the cellular level — the technology allows researchers to virtually penetrate the brain and wander around in a detailed, digital recreation of the most complex and mysterious organ.
Using standard VR goggles, researchers can zoom in, pivot around, and travel through a 3D, digital image of a mouse brain. Hand-held controllers enable the viewer to maneuver, as well as highlight and isolate selected “slices” of the virtual anatomical image.
This isn't a standard digital image, though. The virtual landscape is created by way of advanced, high-resolution microscopes that can image an entire mouse brain when it's removed from the skull. The system provides minute levels of detail with no dissection necessary.
The technology was developed by researchers at the Wyss Center for Bio and Neuroengineering at the University of Geneva, an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to the study of nervous system disorders. Details on the VR system were presented today at the Neuroscience 2017 conference in Washington, DC
Dr. Stéphane Pages, staff scientist at the Wyss Center and senior research associate at the University of Geneva, managed the microscope fabrication and served as lead author on the research.
“These images were captured using a powerful lightsheet microscope that can see individual cells inside a complete mouse brain,” Pages told Seeker. “The new VR visualization technique could also be used to look inside a human brain. It's a quick and efficient way of analyzing large volumes of data from MRI scans, for example.”