Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Neuroscientist develops tool to image brain function at the cellular level

14.07.2004


Carnegie Mellon University neuroscientist Alison Barth has developed the first tool to identify and study individual neurons activated in a living animal. This advance, described in the July 21 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, ultimately could lead to the development of targeted drugs that directly affect specific neurons involved in neurological diseases that alter behavior, learning and perception.

While neuroscientists have made great strides in identifying the general areas of the brain that perform certain tasks, these methods have worked at the gross level and with poor resolution, according to Barth, an assistant professor of biological sciences at the university’s Mellon College of Science. To overcome these limitations, Barth created a transgenic mouse that couples the green fluorescent protein (GFP) with the gene c-fos, which turns on when nerve cells are activated. Using this method, researchers can see specific neurons glow as they are activated by external stimuli such as sensory experience or drug treatment.

"Our transgenic mouse is a novel tool that can be used to visualize, in living brain tissue, a single neuron that has been activated in response to an animal’s experience," Barth said.



Barth used the fosGFP mice to identify neurons that are activated during a specific rearing condition – experiencing the world through one whisker. By locating a cluster of glowing neurons, she was able to precisely identify the area of the brain involved in processing sensory input from the single whisker. Once the neurons of interest had been located, Barth then examined each neuron to determine how its electrophysiological and synaptic properties changed in response to sensory input. Her results are the first to show alterations in the rate at which neurons transmit electrical signals after increased sensory input in vivo.

Barth’s technology is based on the decades-long understanding that a neuron must turn on new genes to firmly encode memories in the brain. Each time c-fos is activated in Barth’s transgenic mouse, so is GFP. The result is an animal whose neurons literally glow when they are activated by stimuli.

"The fosGFP mice offer better access than ever before to the specific neurons that have been activated by an animal’s experience," Barth said.

Although scientists can detect c-fos expression using another technique, it requires disrupting membranes and disturbing connections between nerve cells. Barth’s method circumvents these drawbacks, allowing scientists to study living neurons at the cellular level.

Using the fosGFP mouse to identify a discrete area of the brain involved in inputting sensory information from a single whisker, Barth found that the electrical properties of neurons in the area stimulated by sensation were different than those of neurons deprived of sensation. Specifically, she discovered that neurons in the sensory-stimulated area underwent changes that made them less likely to send a signal to surrounding neurons.

"These changes are hypothesized to be part of a dynamic interplay between forces that maintain neural firing within an optimal range and those that strengthen particular connections between cells, thought to underlie learning," Barth said.

The fosGFP mouse is a broadly applicable tool for many neuroscientists, according to Barth, who has patented the mouse and licensed it commercially.

The fosGFP mouse should help scientists see which neurons are active in different neurological diseases and has broad implications for rational drug design in the treatment of schizophrenia as well as many other psychiatric diseases, according to Barth. For instance, the drug Clozapine, which is used to treat schizophrenia, is effective at relieving symptoms associated with the disease, but it isn’t clear which part of the brain or which specific neurotransmitter receptors are being affected by the drug. Using the fosGFP mouse to study Clozapine’s mechanism of action may provide a better understanding not only of which neurons are activated by the drug, but also how they change on continued exposure to the drug.

Lauren Ward | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.cmu.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Transport of molecular motors into cilia
28.03.2017 | Aarhus University

nachricht Asian dust providing key nutrients for California's giant sequoias
28.03.2017 | University of California - Riverside

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers shoot for success with simulations of laser pulse-material interactions

29.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Igniting a solar flare in the corona with lower-atmosphere kindling

29.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

As sea level rises, much of Honolulu and Waikiki vulnerable to groundwater inundation

29.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>