This colourful image is more than just red and green lines: it depicts a specialised form of brain cells that has earned its photographer a national award.

The image "Neurons that Fire Together Wire Together!" shows a specialised form of brain cells, referred to as cortical neurons, grown in the laboratory for 18 months from a patient suffering a neurodegenerative disorder. Neurons are cells that form a network and passage signals from one neuron to another. While the red fluorescence identifies cortical neurons, the green fluorescence identifies their network, confirming they are functional neurons.

The image earned Dr Gautam Wali, post-doctoral researcher, Department of Neurogenetics, Kolling Institute, one of the top voted images at the International Society for Stem Cell Research conference in June.

"There are limited platforms for scientists to share their work with lay people," Gautam said.

"Research outcomes of scientists are often presented in scientific journals and at conferences, where the audience is largely scientists.

"The Australasian Society for Stem Cell Research society conducted the stem cell image competition that was open to lay people for viewing and voting.

"This was a great opportunity to share a glimpse of my research work with others."

Although the imaging technique itself - confocal microscopy - is a fairly routine procedure in a laboratory, the procedure to produce these brain cells (seen in red) is highly sophisticated.

"It took me about 18 months to produce these brain cells from the patient," Gautam said.

"We use these cells to understand the disease better and discover new drug therapeutics. We have this technology established here at Professor Carolyn Sue’s neurogenetics laboratory at the Kolling Institute."

To view the other images, visit www.asscr.org/stem-cell-image-contest-gallery/