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This composite of layer 2 to 3 pyramidal cells
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This composite of layer 2 to 3 pyramidal cells

June 1, 2010
This composite of layer 2 to 3 pyramidal cells in the visual cortex depicts a volley of "spikes" emerging from the cell bodies and traveling down their axons.

The pyramidal cells in the primary visual cortex process visual information received from the retina (via the lateral geniculate nucleus) and begin the task of converting the image into an understandable scene. These cells send their output to other layers within the primary visual cortex, as well as to cells in other parts of the brain. [One of 4 related images. See Next Image.]

More about this Image This still image was derived from animations developed by Greg Hood, John Burkardt and Greg Foss of the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center. The work contributed to the planetarium show "Gray Matters: The Brain Movie," which debuted in 1999 at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh. With the brain's neural structure projected on the 3D space of the planetarium dome, "Gray Matters" offers an interactive, multimedia lesson in the science of the brain for children and adults.

"Gray Matters" was a collaboration among the Studio for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University, the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC). The work was supported in part by National Science Foundation (NSF) grant 97-05491.

In 1987, the PSC biomedical program, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), became the first extramural biomedical supercomputing program in the country. Since then, with support from NIH's National Center for Research Resources, PSC has fostered exchange between PSC expertise in computational science and experts in biology and medicine to solve important problems in the life sciences.

With NSF support, PSC provides access to LeMieux, a 3,000 processor terascale system capable of 6 trillion computations per second. As of March 2003, with support from NIH and NSF, PSC has also installed two 16-processor HP GS-1280-based systems. Named "Jonas" and "Rachel" for famous Pittsburgh scientists Jonas Salk and Rachel Carson, these two shared memory systems with very high memory bandwidth will be upgraded to larger systems.

In addition to training and access to computational resources, the biomedical group carries out research in structural biology, protein and nucleic-acid sequence analysis, computational neuroscience and microphysiology. In the latter fields, PSC staff work in developing and conducting research with widely used applications software, including MCell, NEOSIM and PGenesis. (Year of image: 1999)