Researchers watch in 3-D as neurons talk to each other in a living mouse brain

Researchers watch in 3-D as neurons talk to each other in a living mouse brain

No single neuron produces a thought or a behavior; anything the brain accomplishes is a vast collaborative effort between cells. When at work, neurons talk rapidly to one another, forming networks as they communicate. Researchers led by Rockefeller University’s Alipash Vaziri are developing technology that would make it possible to record brain activity as it plays out across these networks.

In research published October 31 in Nature Methods, they recorded the activity of thousands of neurons layered within three-dimensional sections of brain as they signaled to one another in a living mouse.

“The ultimate goal of our work is to investigate how large numbers of interconnected neurons throughout the brain interact in real time and how their dynamics lead to behavior,” says Vaziri, an associate professor and head of Laboratory of Neurotechnology and Biophysics. “By developing a new method based on ‘light sculpting’ and using it to capture the activity of the majority of the neurons within a large portion of the cortex, a layered brain structure involved amongst others in higher brain function, we have taken a significant step in this direction.”

This type of recording presents a considerable technical challenge because it requires tools capable of capturing short-lived events within individual cells, all while observing large volumes of brain tissue.

Vaziri, who joined Rockefeller last year, began working toward this goal about six years ago while at the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology in Vienna. His group first succeeded in developing a light-microscope based approach to observing the activity within a whole 302-neuron roundworm brain, before moving on to the 100,000-neuron organ of a larval zebrafish. Their next target, the mouse brain, is more challenging for two reasons: Not only is it more complex, with about 70 million neurons, but the rodent brain is also opaque, unlike the more transparent worm and larval fish brains.

To make the activity of neurons visible, they had to be altered. The researchers engineered the mice so their neurons could emit fluorescent light when they signal to one another. The stronger the signal, the brighter the cells shine… Read More>>

Source: Science Daily

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