New Tool Unlocks Insights into Brain Activity through Facial Movements

Mice, notorious for their constant motion, have intrigued scientists for years. Their facial movements, such as whisking, grooming, and licking, have been the subject of curiosity, as researchers believed they held clues about brain activity. Now, a groundbreaking tool called Facemap is providing unprecedented insights into the neural representation of these spontaneous behaviors in mice.

Facemap, a framework consisting of a keypoint tracker and a deep neural network encoder, utilizes data about a mouse’s eye, whisker, nose, and mouth movements to predict neural activity in the brain. This revolutionary tool, recently published in Nature Neuroscience, marks an exciting milestone in understanding how the brain utilizes widespread signals generated during spontaneous actions in various brain regions.

The research team, led by Carsen Stringer at HHMI Janelia Research Campus, sought to explore the behaviors represented in different brain regions and how facial movements could provide a window into this information. By accurately tracking 13 key points on a mouse’s face and correlating them with neural activity, Facemap offers valuable insights into how these movements drive brain activity in specific regions. Previously, it was challenging to decipher the exact movements responsible for neural signals, but Facemap’s advanced capabilities overcome this obstacle.

Compared to previous methods, Facemap demonstrates superior accuracy and speed in tracking orofacial movements in mice. Its pretrained deep neural networks enable researchers to predict twice as much neural activity compared to conventional techniques. Furthermore, Facemap is widely accessible, as it is freely available and user-friendly. Since its release, hundreds of researchers worldwide have already utilized this powerful tool, streamlining their studies and accelerating progress in neuroscience.

As our understanding of the brain’s intricate workings deepens, Facemap holds tremendous potential for unraveling the mysteries of neural activity and its connection to facial movements. By offering an innovative approach to analyzing spontaneous behaviors in mice, this tool paves the way for breakthrough discoveries that will undoubtedly shape our knowledge of brain function.


How does Facemap work?

Facemap utilizes deep neural networks to track key facial points associated with spontaneous behaviors in mice. It then correlates this information with neural activity, providing insights into how different facial movements drive brain signals.

What makes Facemap unique?

Facemap’s innovative design and pretrained algorithms set it apart from previous methods used to analyze orofacial movements in mice. Its accuracy, speed, and ability to predict neural activity make it an indispensable tool for researchers.

How accessible is Facemap?

Facemap is freely available and easy to use. Researchers can quickly download the tool, run their videos, and obtain results on the same day, greatly simplifying the research process.

What impact does Facemap have on neuroscience research?

Facemap opens up new avenues of exploration, enabling researchers to unravel the intricate relationship between facial movements and brain activity. By studying these connections, scientists can gain a deeper understanding of brain function and potentially develop novel interventions for neurological disorders.