Features | Partner Sites | Information | LinkXpress
Sign In
GLOBETECH PUBLISHING LLC
PZ HTL SA
GLOBETECH PUBLISHING LLC

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



SLAS - Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening
BIOSIGMA S.R.L.
RANDOX LABORATORIES
comments powered by Disqus

Channels

Genomics/Proteomics

view channel

MicroRNA Panel Identifies Mild Brain Trauma in a Mouse Model

A study conducted on a mouse model found that a panel of 13 serum microRNAs (miRNAs) could be used to identify the severity of damage to the brain and the risk of developing adverse effects following mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). MTBI is a heterogeneous injury that may lead to the development of neurological and... Read more

Drug Discovery

view channel

Omega 3 Found to Improve Behavior in Children with ADHD

Supplements of the fatty acids omega 3 and 6 can help children and adolescents who have a specific kind of have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Moreover, these findings indicate that a customized cognitive training program can improve problem behavior in children with ADHD. Statistics show that 3%–6%... Read more

Biochemistry

view channel

Blocking Enzyme Switch Turns Off Tumor Growth in T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Researchers recently reported that blocking the action of an enzyme “switch” needed to activate tumor growth is emerging as a practical strategy for treating T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. An estimated 25% of the 500 US adolescents and young adults diagnosed yearly with this aggressive disease fail to respond to... Read more

Business

view channel

Two Industry Partnerships Initiated to Fuel Neuroscience Research

Faster, more complex neural research is now attainable by combining technology from two research companies. Blackrock Microsystems, LLC (Salt Lake City, UT, USA), a developer of neuroscience research equipment, announced partnerships with two neuroscience research firms—PhenoSys, GmbH (Berlin, Germany) and NAN Instruments, Ltd.... Read more
 
Copyright © 2000-2014 Globetech Media. All rights reserved.