Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Stanford researchers develop tool for reading the minds of mice

20.02.2013
Stanford scientists have developed a system for observing real-time brain activity in a live mouse. The device could prove useful in studying new treatments for neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's.
If you want to read a mouse's mind, it takes some fluorescent protein and a tiny microscope implanted in the rodent's head.

Stanford scientists have demonstrated a technique for observing hundreds of neurons firing in the brain of a live mouse, in real time, and have linked that activity to long-term information storage. The unprecedented work could provide a useful tool for studying new therapies for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.

The researchers first used a gene therapy approach to cause the mouse's neurons to express a green fluorescent protein that was engineered to be sensitive to the presence of calcium ions. When a neuron fires, the cell naturally floods with calcium ions. Calcium stimulates the protein, causing the entire cell to fluoresce bright green.

A tiny microscope implanted just above the mouse's hippocampus – a part of the brain that is critical for spatial and episodic memory – captures the light of roughly 700 neurons. The microscope is connected to a camera chip, which sends a digital version of the image to a computer screen.

The computer then displays near real-time video of the mouse's brain activity as a mouse runs around a small enclosure, which the researchers call an arena.

The neuronal firings look like tiny green fireworks, randomly bursting against a black background, but the scientists have deciphered clear patterns in the chaos.

"We can literally figure out where the mouse is in the arena by looking at these lights," said Mark Schnitzer, an associate professor of biology and of applied physics and the senior author on the paper, recently published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

When a mouse is scratching at the wall in a certain area of the arena, a specific neuron will fire and flash green. When the mouse scampers to a different area, the light from the first neuron fades and a new cell sparks up.

"The hippocampus is very sensitive to where the animal is in its environment, and different cells respond to different parts of the arena," Schnitzer said. "Imagine walking around your office. Some of the neurons in your hippocampus light up when you're near your desk, and others fire when you're near your chair. This is how your brain makes a representative map of a space."

The group has found that a mouse's neurons fire in the same patterns even when a month has passed between experiments. "The ability to come back and observe the same cells is very important for studying progressive brain diseases," Schnitzer said.

For example, if a particular neuron in a test mouse stops functioning, as a result of normal neuronal death or a neurodegenerative disease, researchers could apply an experimental therapeutic agent and then expose the mouse to the same stimuli to see if the neuron's function returns.

Although the technology can't be used on humans, mouse models are a common starting point for new therapies for human neurodegenerative diseases, and Schnitzer believes the system could be a very useful tool in evaluating pre-clinical research.

The work was published Feb. 10 in the online edition of Nature Neuroscience. The researchers have formed a company to manufacture and sell the device.
Media Contact

Mark Schnitzer, Biology and Applied Physics: (650) 725-7438, mschnitzer@gmail.com

Bjorn Carey, Stanford News Service: (650) 725-1944, bccarey@stanford.edu

Bjorn Carey | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.stanford.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht The birth of a new protein
20.10.2017 | University of Arizona

nachricht Building New Moss Factories
20.10.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Shallow soils promote savannas in South America

20.10.2017 | Earth Sciences

How Obesity Promotes Breast Cancer

20.10.2017 | Life Sciences

How the smallest bacterial pathogens outwit host immune defences by stealth mechanisms

20.10.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>