The BRAIN Initiative Photo and Video Contest

Congratulations to the 2024 BRAIN Initiative Photo and Video Contest winners! 

Each year, we invite neuroscience researchers engaged with or interested in the BRAIN Initiative to submit their most creative, beautiful, and inspiring images or short videos of the brain. This year's contest received many excellent submissions.

Winning entries are listed below. As we commemorate 10 years of BRAIN-funded research, we also selected one photo and one video for a special “BRAIN at 10” category. These finalists, along with this year's winners, represent the progress in brain and neuroscience research since the BRAIN Initiative issued its first awards in 2014.

The winning entries will also be featured on the BRAIN Initiative Alliance website.

Prizes

The top three photo and video winners will receive a certificate recognizing their accomplishment, recognition during the 10th Annual BRAIN Initiative Conference, and will have their submissions posted on the NIH BRAIN Initiative website. In addition, the finalists will have a chance to be featured in our popular BRAIN Initiative calendar.

2024 Winners

Video Winners

 

First place

Exploring the 3D nanoarchitecture of neuronal membranes at dendritic spine by labeling Channelrhodopsin-2

Image of Immunofluorescence-labeled Channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) in 50-μm thick  tissue-clearing mouse brain slices captured using 4Pi single-molecule localization microscopy. The ChR2-decorated neuromembrane at the dendritic spine is outlined with sub-15-nm 3D resolution pseudocolored by depth position of proteins, revealing nanoscale view in the 3D architecture of the dendritic spine and its cross-sectional details.

By Hao-Cheng Gao, Purdue University 


 

Second place

Spinal motor neurons illuminated by enhancer AAV

Overview of a mouse spinal cord showing infectivity of an enhancer AAV driving SYFP2 expression (green) in spinal motor neurons following intravenous administration. The overview captures consistent expression throughout all levels of cord (cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacral) on both right and left hemispheres. The subsequent “fly-through” portion of the video stiches together images of ~2um thick transverse sections of the spinal cord progressing from top to bottom (cervical to sacral). SYFP2 expression matches the expected morphology and abundance of spinal motor neurons in the mouse spinal cord based off previous data, notably the Allen in situ hybridization (ISH) atlas.

By Tanya Daigle and Emily Kussick, Allen Institute for Brain Science


 

Third place

Neuronal 'fireworks' when the salamander sniffs

In vivo real-time volumetric calcium imaging of salamander pallial neuron activity in response to odor stimuli with swept confocally-aligned planar excitation (SCAPE) microscopy.

By Lu Xu, Wenze Li, Eliza Jaeger, Elizabeth Hillman, and Maria Tosches, Columbia University

 


BRAIN at 10 Video Finalist

 

Cortical Density

This animation reveals the immense scientific progress that has been made in visualizing the brain. The Golgi method, established around the year 1873, stains ~1-5% of neurons, leading to a view of neurons surrounded by much empty space. Modern methods detail the true complexity and density of brain tissue.

By Tyler Sloan, Quorumetrix Studio


Photo Winners

 

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Image of Whole-cortex scale in vivo two-photon imaging with single-cell resolution in mice

First place

Whole-cortex scale in vivo two-photon imaging with single-cell resolution in mice

Using the newly invented Light Pipe Microscope array, the whole-cortex scale in vivo two-photon imaging is shown with single-cell resolution in CX3CR1-eGFP mice.

By Zongyue Cheng, Purdue University


 

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Image of Chaos circuitry

Second place

Chaos circuitry

Rabies virus-mediated transsynaptic tracing reveals a vast landscape of neurons (orange) in the mouse brain that synapse with diffusely infiltrative glioblastoma cells (blue), a lethal brain cancer. 

By Yusha Sun and Xin Wang, University of Pennsylvania

 


 

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Image of Willow on the Island of Calleja

Third place 

Willow on the Island of Calleja

Exploring the formation of long-term olfactory memory in the mouse brain, stored amongst the neurons of the Island of Calleja (green-violet).

By Lee O. Vaasjo and Maria J. Galazo, Tulane University

 


BRAIN at 10 Photo Finalist

 

Image
Image of Decoding Depression

Decoding Depression

Diffusion tensor imaging of the 3D white matter structure in a patient living with depression and using deep brain stimulation. This image highlights the target network for stimulation and decoding the depression state from chronic recordings. 

By Chris Rozell, Mike Halerz ,Ki Sueng Choi, Christopher Rozell, and Helen Mayberg, Georgia Institute of Technology, Ichan School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai and TeraPixel, Inc.

2024 BRAIN Initiative Calendar

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2024 BRAIN Initiative Calendar cover of a row of green fluorescent Purkinje neurons in the mouse cerebellum.
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2024 BRAIN Initiative Calendar
The 2024 BRAIN Initiative Calendar is available! Request a free copy or download the PDF version.

 

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2024 BRAIN Initiative Calendar displaying all 12 months on a single page.
calendar
2024 BRAIN Initiative Single-Page Calendar
The 2024 BRAIN Initiative Calendar is also available as a single-page version for download.

 

 

Past Winners

Check out the winning entries from past contests below.

2023 Winners

 Video Winners

 

First Place

Simian Symphony: Ripple Assemblies During Rest

Related CA1 unit ensembles from macaque wireless Deep Array recordings, sonified by unit and visualized by layer and functional cell type.

By Kari Hoffman, Tyler Sloan, Saman Abbaspoor, Vanderbilt University


 

Second Place

Functional Ultrasound Localization Microscopy

Functional Ultrasound Localization Microscopy reveals whole brain vascular changes during neuronal activation up to the micron scale.

By Alexandre Dizeux, Physics for Medicine Paris


 

Third Place
Synaptic Balance

Reconstruction of inhibitory and excitatory neurons in human cortex from mSEM.

By Scalable Minds


Photo Winners

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Dark Commute at 4am - First Place Photo Winner 2023. A confocal image of sparse GCaMP6f-expressing Purkinje cells in mouse cerebellum resembles the industrious contours of pre-dawn commuters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Place 

Dark Commute at 4am

In the darkness of a confocal microscope room, bright fluorescent dyes reveal Purkinje cells winding their way through the tissue of the cerebellum. These complex, branching cells play roles in learning and memory. The cells in this photo, taken from sections of mouse cerebellum, resemble pre-dawn commuters on the highways of the brain as they travel towards their eventual targets. 

By Silas Busch, University of Chicago


 

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Premotor Neurons Controlling the Fruit Fly Leg. Second Place Photo Winner 2023. Reconstruction of premotor neurons from a serial-section electron microscopy dataset of the Drosophila Female Adult Nerve Cord.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second Place 

Premotor Neurons Controlling the Fruit Fly Leg

A reconstruction of premotor neurons controlling the fruit fly leg. Using an electron microscopy dataset of ultrathin sections of the Drosophila ventral nerve cord, researchers created a vivid display of the neural connections involved in fly leg movement. The structure of each neuron helps researchers determine their developmental lineages, represented by the different colors.

By Andrew Cook, Jasper Phelps, Anthony Azevedo, Ellen Lesser, Leila Elabbady, Brandon Pratt, Wei-Chung Allen Lee, John Tuthill, University of Washington and Harvard Medical School 


 

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Memory Lanes. Third Place Photo Winner 2023. A rendering of MRI data –combining cortical surface and hippocampal segmentations from a T1 weighted scan and diffusion tractography.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Third Place 

Memory Lanes

The hippocampus is the brain’s memory center. By combining two MRI scans, researchers can reveal the vast network of nerve fibers to and from the hippocampus—a wiring diagram for part of the brain. The axon fiber bundles are artificially colored depending on which direction they are heading. For a better sense of just how immensely complex the brain’s wiring is, this image represents less than 1% of the data collected.

By Tyler Ard, USC Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute

 

2022 Winners

 

Video Winners

 

First Place

Neurons In Action
Functional activity measured in vivo with 2-Photon imaging with matching morphologies from the same neurons measured with electron microscopy.

By Andreas Tolias, Jacob Reimer, R.J. Cotton, Xaq Pitkow, Nuno da Costa, Forrest Collman, Clay Reid, and Sebastian Seung, Baylor College of Medicine, Allen Institute, Princeton University, Northwestern University/Shirley Ryan Ability Lab

 


Second Place

Ictal Cinema
Transforming intracranial recordings of an ongoing seizure into a heatmap (line length transform) using a reconstruction of the patient's own brain.

By Jon Kleen, University of California San Francisco


Third Place

Pyramidal Christmas Tree
A rendering of an electron microscope reconstruction of a layer 5 cortical neuron from the MICrONs dataset, where input synapses are blinking lights.

By Forrest Collman, Allen Institute for Brain Science


Photo Winners

 

Image
The Intersection of Memory and Memory  - Third Place Photo Winner 2022. Two memories captured under the microscope. Peering into the hippocampus of a mouse using viral technology and optogenetics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Place

The Intersection of Memory and Memory
Two memories captured under the microscope. Peering into the hippocampus of a mouse using viral technology and optogenetics.

By Stephanie Grella, Boston University


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Mindmap – The Intricate Wiring of The Human Brain  - Second Place Photo Winner 2022. Brain activity is orchestrated by propagating information between brain regions through fiber tracts, visualized via diffusion MRI tractography.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second Place

Mindmap – The Intricate Wiring of The Human Brain
Brain activity is orchestrated by propagating information between brain regions through fiber tracts, visualized via diffusion MRI tractography.

By Sahar Ahmad, Ye Wu, and Pew-Thian Yap, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


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Zebrafish Brain Thinking Abraham Lincoln  - Third Place Photo Winner 2022. Image taken from Zebrafish brain tissue shows fluorescent blue and pink colors against a black background. The shape of the tissue section looks like Abraham Lincoln's side profile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Third Place

Zebrafish Brain Thinking Abraham Lincoln
Image taken from a Zebrafish brain tissue section, synaptophysin as the primary antibody, Alexa555 and DAPI as secondary antibody, and looks like Abraham Lincoln's side profile.

By Esengül Öztürk, Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University

 

2021 Winners

Download the 2022 BRAIN Initiative single page calendar(pdf, 5983 KB) featuring the top entries from the 2021 BRAIN Initiative Photo & Video Contest.

Video Winners

 

First Place

DBS Lead Placement for OCD
360 degree view of deep brain stimulation (DBS) lead placement in one participant that underwent DBS surgery for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

By Nicole Provenza, Raissa Mathura, Noam Peled, Evan Dastin-van Rijn, Kelly Bijanki, Sameer Sheth, David Borton, Wayne Goodman, Brown University, Baylor College of Medicine

 


Second Place (TIE)

Pyramidal Tract Reconstruction in Vivo
Pyramidal tract of an HCP subject reconstructed in vivo using Radial DSI and ODF-Fingerprinting. Improved reconstruction of fibers crossing at shallow angles ensured by ODF-Fingerprinting allowed to reproduce the reach fanning shape of cortical terminations of the tract. Images were rendered in DSI Studio.

By Patryk Filipiak, Timothy Shepherd, Ying-Chia Lin, Dimitris G. Placantonakis, Fernando E. Boada, Steven H. Baete, New York University School of Medicine


Second Place (TIE)

Non-invasive in vivo Mapping of the Human Amygdala Circuit
Tractography of three critical amygdala pathways: the ventral amygdalofugal pathway, the stria terminalis and then amygdala-prefrontal pathway.

By Josue Avecillas-Chasin, Ausaf Bari, Jean-Philippe Langevin, University of California, Los Angeles

 


Third Place

Reconstructed Mouse Cervical Spinal Cord
Serially sectioned spinal cord with marked coordinates of V1-Interneurons and cells infected by neuronal tracer pseudorabies virus -3D reconstructed.

By Jamie Anne Mortel, Salk Institute


Photo Winners

 

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Microscopic image of mouse brain scan with fluorescent solor scheme - First Place Photo Winner 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Place

Thinking About a Greener Future
Mouse brain showing green AAV-transduced cells in the cortex and hippocampus. Neurons are labeled red and nuclei are blue.

By Allen Yen, Washington University School of Medicine


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Microscopic image of mouse nerons with metal probe - Second Place Photo Winner 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second Place

Model of Mouse V1 with a Neuropixels Probe
This rendering of a model of mouse primary visual cortex with a Neuropixels probe was created using a new tool, VND (Visual Neuronal Dynamics).

By Barry Isralewitz, John Stone, Mariano Spivak, Kael Dai, Josh Siegle, Emad Tajkhorshid, and Anton Arkhipov, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Allen Institute


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microscopic image of mouse neruon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Third Place

Neuron on Fire
Hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neuron in the mouse, recorded from the distal dendrite using patch clamp electrophysiology. The recorded location is visible as the gap in the dendrite. The neuron was filled with biocytin during recording and immunostained with streptavidin-647 post hoc. Confocal image was filtered using ImageJ.

By Olesia Bilash, New York University

2020 Winners

Download the 2021 BRAIN Initiative single page calendar(pdf, 2289 KB) featuring the top entries from the 2020 BRAIN Initiative Photo & Video Contest.

Video Winners

 

Video file

First Place

Intact Whole-brain Imaging of Neurons
Thy1-GFP mouse brain optically cleared and imaged with the Zeiss Light-sheet Z.1 microscope using a Mesoscale Imaging System.

By Sunil Gandhi, Ricardo Azevedo and Damian Wheeler, University of California, Irvine and Translucence Biosystems


Video file

Second Place

Reconstructing the Mind of a Worm
The C. elegans brain, including every nerve and muscle fiber, being reconstructed by serial-section electron microscopy.

By Daniel Witvliet, University of Toronto and Harvard University


Video file

Third Place

Fly Through a Fly Brain
These cells were reconstructed by artificial intelligence from Princeton University's Murthy Seung Lab using electron microscope images HHMI Janelia.

By Amy Sterling, Princeton University and EyeWire


Photo Winners

 

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Cortical Forest - First Place Photo Winner 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Place

Cortical Forest
Mouse Layer V cortical neurons eYFP-labeled (Thy1-H) and imaged after CLARITY processing of a whole brain. Maximum projection with depth color coding.

By Linus Manubens-Gil and Jim Swoger, Centre de Regulació Genòmica (CRG) and EMBL Mesoscopic Imaging Facility


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Radiating Neurons - Second Place Photo Winner 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second Place

Radiating Neurons
4-week-old rat cortical neurons labeled for dendrites (red), axons (green), and nuclei (blue).

By Karthik Krishnamurthy, Davide Trotti, and Piera Pasinelli, Thomas Jefferson University


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The waterdrop hippocampus - Third Place Photo Winner 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Third Place

The Ephemeral Hippocampus
The brain is everywhere to us neuroscientists. This exquisite 'hippocampus', with delicate dendrites, is actually a waterdrop captured at highspeed.

By Tallie Z. Baram, Jeremy Barry, and Joan Morris, University of California, Irvine, © 2017 Joan Morris

2019 Winners

 
Video Winners

 

Video file

First Place

High-Resolution MORF3-labeled Hippocampal Neurons
Using MORF3 and SHIELD, pyramidal neurons were sparsely labeled and imaged at very high resolution deep within a whole hemisphere.

By X. William Yang and Kwanghun (KC) Chung, University of California, Los Angeles and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)


Video file

Second Place

3D Diffusion Tractography
In neuroscience, tractography is a 3D modeling technique used to visually represent nerve tracts using data collected by diffusion MRI.

By James Stanis, University of Southern California Mark and Mary Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute


Video file

Third Place

Neural Circuit in The Storm
3D image of parvalbumin+ neurons (red, neurites; green, presynaptic puncta) swimming through the waves of GAD1+ (cyan) neurons.

By Young-Gyun Park, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)


Photo Winners

 

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Light Me Up Picture - First Place Photo Winner 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Place

Light Me Up!
Light-based rendering of deep brain stimulation’s electrical excitation of neuronal fiber pathways to treat patients with traumatic brain injury.

By Andrew Janson, University of Utah Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute


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Dancing Devils - Second Place Photo Winner 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second Place

Dancing Devils
Mouse hippocampal neuron stained for f-actin (red) and tubulin (green).

By Sharada Tilve, NIH National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)


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Neural Circuit in the Storm - Third Place Photo Winner 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Third Place

Neural Circuit in The Storm
3D image of parvalbumin+ neurons (red, neurites; green, presynaptic puncta) swimming through the waves of GAD1+ (cyan) neurons.

By Young-Gyun Park, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)