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Mouse Brain or Impressionist Painting?

Photo Reflecting Pioneering Scientific Technique Wins Olympus BioScapes

International Competition

CENTER VALLEY, Pa., Nov. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- A rainbow of brilliantly colored brain cells that was captured using a breakthrough new scientific technique has earned top prize in the 2007 Olympus BioScapes Digital Imaging Competition, the world's foremost forum for showcasing microscope photos and videos of life science subjects. Jean Livet of Harvard University took top honors for a "Brainbow" image of axons in a mouse's brain stem. The cascading canvas of color, captured through a confocal microscope, resembles a vivid impressionist painting. Dr. Livet's image triumphed over a thousand other images and movies to earn the First Prize -- $5000 worth of Olympus equipment.

(Photo: )

In its fourth year, the Olympus BioScapes competition is the world's premier platform for honoring images and videos of plant, animal and human subjects as captured through light microscopes. Any life science subject is eligible, and entries are judged based on the science they depict, their aesthetics (beauty and impact of the image), and their technical merit. This year, in addition to Prizes 1-10, 63 other images and movies were recognized with honorable mentions. All images and the names of all honorees may be viewed online at

The "Brainbow" technique, recently developed in Dr. Jeff Lichtman's laboratory at Harvard, is a method that allows scientists to see more clearly how neurons connect with each other through the complex and intertwined pathways of the nervous system. Each neuron is colored by a distinct combination of red, yellow and cyan fluorescent proteins. Similar to how an RGB television set works, the technique allows the three colors to combine in different cells to produce a wide variety of resulting hues. By using color to trace each neuron's individual path and connections, scientists hope eventually to build detailed maps that will help them understand how the brain works. Livet's picture is a montage of images showing large caliber axons of the auditory pathway and their characteristic calyx-like ends.

"This winning image reflects the awesome intricacy and beauty of the natural world and it shows how much science and fine art can echo one another," said Stephen Tang, PhD, Group Vice President and General Manager, Life Science, for Olympus America. "But the most exciting thing about these images is the vital stories they tell about our quest to cure disease and enhance life. These extraordinary images are visual records of our current understanding of neurological disorders, cancer, plant science, developmental biology and much more."

Other significant images recognized in this year's competition include several of the inner ear that help shed light on the process of hearing; numerous striking photos of cells and the brain; vibrant botanical images; rat and hen tongues; and four other Brainbow images captured by Dr. Livet and his Harvard colleague Tamily Weissman.

Twenty of the 2007 winning and Honorable Mention images will be displayed in Washington DC and at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Janelia Farms campus in Virginia this winter, and then will begin a national tour that will take them to such destinations as New York City; San Diego; the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA; and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, NY. Other displays of BioScapes images will simultaneously be touring in Los Angeles; Baltimore MD; Buffalo NY; two destinations in Canada; and Allentown PA throughout 2008.

Olympus selects outstanding authorities in microscope imaging as judges for the competition, which is open to users of any brand of light microscope and camera equipment.

This year's BioScapes judges included Dr. Douglas Murphy, Director of the Light Microscopy Facility at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Farms Research Center; Dr. Clare Waterman, Chief of the Laboratory of Cell and Tissue Morphodynamics at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health; Dr. Jason Swedlow, Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow at the University of Dundee in the United Kingdom; and Dr. Kenneth N. Fish, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh.

In addition to Livet, other Top 10 winners included: Glen MacDonald of the University of Washington, for his image of a mammal's inner ear; Andy Fischer of Ohio State University, for his photo of a chicken retina; Sonja Pyott of the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, for her image of tiny vertebrate cochlea and hair cells; Thomas Deerinck of the National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research at UCSD for his photos of rat tongue and cerebellum; Pat Wadsworth of the University of Massachusetts for her depiction of the mitotic spindle in a diving cell; Earl Nishiguchi of the University of Hawaii for his fruit fly testis image; Jan Schmoranzer of Columbia University for his photo of serum starved fibroblasts; and M.R. Dadpour of the University of Tabriz, Iran, for his depiction of gooseberry leaf primordia.

To view all the winning images and see a complete list of the winners and honorable mentions, visit For free access to the images, media members and other noncommercial users may contact

About Olympus

Olympus is a precision technology leader, creating innovative opto-digital solutions in healthcare, life science and consumer electronics products. Olympus works collaboratively with its customers and affiliates worldwide to leverage R&D investment in precision technology and manufacturing processes across diverse business lines. For more information, visit

SOURCE Olympus BioScapes
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