Onna, Japan

Scanning fish brains in Japan

I teamed up with Evan Economo, Dan Warren and Teresa Iglesias at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology to aid them on a quest to map the brain of teleost fishes. Our goal is to use special dyes and preservation techniques to CT-scan different regions of the brain in order to investigate the evolutionary dynamics that have given rise to the spectacular diversity of brain forms found in fish.

Imaging the teleost brain


Working at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology is nothing short of amazing. Several buildings linked by sky bridges filled with some of the brightest minds armed with some of the most advanced technology in the world. Having the opportunity to work here was incredible.
View from a skybridge at two of the OIST buildings. Our temporary offices were on the right and we would use the bridge in the background to access the CT scanner in the building on the left.


Main entry into OIST. Digital displays highlight all of the research happening at the moment around the facility.


CT-scanning fish brains is not trivial. Luckily Dan and Teresa were able to come up with the correct range of settings and innovative solutions to keeping the brains in the scanner without them moving. As you may imagine, no one has produced fish head holders for these machines yet. However, with some glue and a few hacks to common lab supplies we were able to make holders that kept heads from sliding.
Inside of a CT-scanner set up to scan an ant. The Economo lab has been using CT-scans of ants to unlock new insights into their biodiversity

The finished raw scan results. Three screens give views of the three perspectives (X, Y, Z, axes) of the scan with the fourth screen showing the composite scan.


Dan Warren working on quality control. After the scans are produced we next need to create three dimensional models of all the brain regions


Now that we are getting scans, stay tuned to hear about what we discover!

Dialogue & Discussion