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Dr Elizabeth Barsotti featured on the University of Cambridge homepage

14 June 2024 College life

Clare Hall Affiliated Postdoc Dr Elizabeth Barsotti has been featured on the University of Cambridge homepage for her impactful research, as part of one of only three labs across the world using electron microscopes for mapping animal brains.

Through using an electron microscrope, Dr Barsotti is able to reveal a highly detailed map of neurons in animal brains. This research aims to uncover the secrets of brain structure and potentially develop revolutionary treatments for neurological disease, along with gaining a deeper understanding of the creatures around us.

Last year, Dr Barsotti’s team published a significant study on the brain of the fruit fly larva, producing the first ever “connectome,” or comprehensive map of the brain’s neurons and their wiring. This was the largest complete brain connectome to have ever been mapped, and was a huge development on previous work in this field. The study also developed tools to identify how information flows through fruit fly brains, and provided structural similarities to deep learning architecture in artificial systems.

Dr Barsotti has since been researching several other animal brains to try and generate a more general brain map across species. Developments in artificial intelligence may accelerate the process of imaging, tracing, and analysing these brains, along with decreasing the costs of the necessary technology.

“I’m incredibly lucky. I’m an engineer who gets to work on so many cool biological questions. I never thought I’d get to do this in a million years. This project spans so many different fields: software, machine learning, biology, ethics. My colleagues at MRC LMB are working on projects straight out of science fiction. Cambridge is full of so many smart people, it’s like a playground for science,” Dr Barsotti shared in her interview with the University of Cambridge.

Read Dr Barsotti’s full feature here.