Video Games May Have Just Led To A Gigantic Brain Cell Analysis Breakthrough

Video Games May Have Just Led To A Gigantic Brain Cell Analysis Breakthrough

Researchers from the University of Queensland have used an idea inspired by video games to learn about the behaviours of molecules in brain cells.

Doctor Tristan Wallis and Professor Frederic Meunier claim that the original idea came from playing video games during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Taking inspiration from video games involving combat, such as Call of Duty, Wallis describes that these games use complex, highly-accurate algorithms to track the travel of bullets as they move and come into contact with enemies.

“We thought a similar algorithm could be used to analyse tracked molecules moving within a brain cell,” Wallis said.

So, with the development of a new algorithm that doesn’t just track the clustering of brain cells in a space, but also how, when, where, and for how long they move around in a specified time period, Wallis added that researchers will now be able to see “order in the chaos”.

“This gives us new information about how molecules perform critical functions within brain cells and how these functions can be disrupted during ageing and disease,” Wallis added.

The university claims that Wallis’ algorithm is now being used in several labs analysing brain cell activity. Meunier’s team is currently using the algorithm to analyse Syntaxin-1A, a protein that is essential for communication between brain cells. Meunier said that this approach to brain cell analysis could have an “exponential” impact.

“It has brought us to a new frontier in neuroscience,” Meunier said.

I freakin’ love video games, man – this research is so cool, and Wallis, Meunier, and the other researchers involved should be so proud of themselves for this.

You can read about the video game research on the University of Queensland website, or in Nature Communications.