SYNAPSE Singapore

“Synchrotron for Neuroscience – an Asia Pacific Strategic Enterprise” (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 and Australia Synchrotron under the Asia Oceania Forum for Synchrotron Radiation Research (AOFSRR), with support from the local synchrotron, neurobiology and computing communities.

What is our objective?
We plan to comprehensively map the neuron network of an entire human brain at sub-cellular level to reveal the connections. This historical target is made possible by the recent performances of synchrotron x-ray microscopy: 0.3 micrometer resolution at 1 mm3/min image taking speed. However, mapping one human brain would take a very long time and generate a huge amount of data. To overcome problems, SYNAPSE adopts a strategy of simultaneous image acquisition by several synchrotrons and coordinated data management. SYNAPSE will also use other advanced imaging techniques besides synchrotron microscopy: infrared spectromicroscopy, super-resolution visible light 3D microscopy and cryo-electron tomography.

Who are we?
The new partnership is built on long-standing and successful collaborations. Our core teams pioneered the special techniques required for SYNAPSE, notably x-ray phase-contrast tomography at micrometer and nanometer scale. In addition to synchrotron facilities, SYNAPSE involves more than 40 other research institutions in biology, materials science, physics, chemistry and engineering from the regional partners.

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. This could lead to effective therapies for diseases, a planetary problem with huge social impact. SYNAPSE will also generate important technology byproducts in advanced imaging, new computational strategies and artificial intelligence.

The first step.
SYNAPSE will be officially launched on January 15th, 2020 in Singapore, with the partners inking their committment and the formal announcement of our key objective: the first wiring map (connectome) of a human brain before 2024.