Features | Partner Sites | Information | LinkXpress
Sign In
BioConferenceLive
JIB
GLOBETECH PUBLISHING

Researchers Develop New Tool That Reads Live Brain Activity

By BiotechDaily International staff writers
Posted on 06 Mar 2013
Scientists have developed a system for observing real-time mammalian brain activity, providing a valuable new tool for studying basic brain processes and neurological medical problems and treatments, including neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.

Using a green fluorescent protein (GFP) expression marker and a microscope implanted in the brain, scientists at Standford University (Standford, CA, USA) have demonstrated a technique for observing in real-time the activity of hundreds of neurons in the brain of a live mouse. The researchers caused the neurons to express GFP from a vector engineered to be sensitive to calcium ions, which enter and flood neuron cells upon firing (activation) - the intracellular rise in calcium thereby causes the entire cell fluoresces. A tiny microscope implanted just above the hippocampus (critical for spatial and episodic memory) captures the light from roughly 700 neurons. A camera chip connected to the microscope sends a digital image to a computer screen, enabling the near real-time video observation of brain activity as the mouse runs around a small, enclosed “arena.” The scientists have deciphered clear patterns of neuron firings from what to others may appear to be a chaos of random firings.

"We can literally figure out where the mouse is in the arena by looking at these lights," said senior auther Mark Schnitzer, associate professor of biology and of applied physics at Stanford. When a mouse is scratching at the wall in one area of the arena, a specific neuron will fire and flash green. When the mouse scampers to a different area, the fluorescence from the first neuron fades while a different cell sparks. "The hippocampus is very sensitive to where the animal is in its environment, and different cells respond to different parts of the arena," said Prof. Schnitzer; "This is how your brain makes a representative map of a space."

The brain activity observed in this initial application of the technique has also been linked to long-term information storage. The team found that the neurons fired in the same patterns even after a month. "The ability to come back and observe the same cells is very important for studying progressive brain diseases," said Prof. Schnitzer. For example, if a particular neuron in a test mouse stops functioning, as a result of normal neuronal death or of a neurodegenerative disease, researchers could apply an experimental therapeutic agent and then expose the mouse to the same stimuli to see if the function returns. Although the technology cannot be used on humans, since mouse models are a common starting point for new therapies for human neurodegenerative diseases, Prof. Schnitzer notes that the system could be a very useful tool in evaluating preclinical research (the researchers have formed a company to manufacture the device).

The work was published February 10, 2013, in the online edition of the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Related Links:

Standford University



comments powered by Disqus

Channels

Genomics/Proteomics

view channel
Image: In the liver tissue of obese animals with type II diabetes, unhealthy, fat-filled cells are prolific (small white cells, panel A). After chronic treatment through FGF1 injections, the liver cells successfully lose fat and absorb sugar from the bloodstream (small purple cells, panel B) and more closely resemble cells of normal, non-diabetic animals (Photo courtesy of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies).

Fibroblast Growth Factor 1 Treatment Restores Glucose Control in Mouse Diabetes Model

A "vaccine" based on the metabolic regulator fibroblast growth factor 1 (FGF1) removed the insulin resistance that characterizes type II diabetes and restored the body's natural ability to manage its glucose... Read more

Drug Discovery

view channel
Image: Molecular rendering of the crystal structure of parkin (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

Cinnamon Feeding Blocks Development of Parkinson's Disease in Mouse Model

A team of neurological researchers has identified a molecular mechanism by which cinnamon acts to protect neurons from damage caused by Parkinson's disease (PD) in a mouse model of the syndrome.... Read more

Therapeutics

view channel
Image: This type of electronic pacemaker could become obsolete if induction of biological pacemaker cells by gene therapy proves successful (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

Gene Therapy Induces Functional Pacemaker Cells in Pig Heart Failure Model

Cardiovascular disease researchers working with a porcine heart failure model have demonstrated the practicality of using gene therapy to replace implanted electronic pacemakers to regulate heartbeat.... Read more

Business

view channel

Cancer Immunotherapy Sector Predicted to Surge to USD 9 Billion Across Major Pharma Through 2022

The immunotherapy market will experience substantial growth through 2022, increasing from USD 1.1 billion in 2012 to nearly USD 9 billion in 2022 (corresponding to 23.8% annual growth) in the United Kingdom, United States, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Japan, according to recent market research. This notable growth... Read more
 
Copyright © 2000-2014 Globetech Media. All rights reserved.