Major Breakthrough in Brain Research: Nerve Cell Actions Made Optically Visible In Mice

By | October 9, 2008

Individual and double action potentials can be recorded optically using a genetic calcium indicator that colours the cells in the brain of a living mouse.

Thought processes made visible: An international team of scientists headed by Mazahir Hasan of the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg has succeeded in optically detecting individual action potentials in the brains of living animals. The scientists introduced fluorescent indicator proteins into the brain cells of mice via viral gene vectors: the illumination of the fluorescent proteins indicates both when and which neurons are communicating with each other.

… This means that the communication of entire groups of neurons can be observed over an extended period of time. Mazahir Hasan also attracted attention in 2004 when he demonstrated for the first time that fluorescent proteins are suitable for making activity in the brains of mice visible

… “To observe this change, we use a two-photon microscope developed by Winfried Denk”, explains Hasan. Each individual action potential that arises due to a stimulus makes itself directly perceivable in the brain through yellow illumination and the simultaneous reduction in the emission of blue light. The two-photon microscope pinpoints the coincidence between the two fluorescent signals very accurately and clearly reveals which nerve cells are communicating and exchanging information with each other and when. – sd

Has it been tried in humans? That might not be a good idea since they are using a virus to deliver the glowing stuff to all the mouse brain cells.

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