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Scientists Capture 3-D Neural Activity Of A Moving Worm

Update Date: Jan 02, 2016 08:41 PM EST

The brain activity of a free-moving animal, encompassing almost every region of the brain, has been captured by researchers from Princeton University. The activities of Caenorhabditis elegans nematode, a brain with 302 neurons, have been recorded.

A novel technique enabling the scientists to capture 3-D footage was carried out. Moreover, the researchers could correlate 77 neurons with behaviors such as "backwards and forwards motion".

Watch the video here.

Earlier, the focus had been only on some parts of the brain or on organisms with limited mobility. This footage is a breakthrough in the field.

"This system is exciting because it provides the most detailed picture yet of brain-wide neural activity with single-neuron resolution in the brain of an animal that is free to move around," Andrew Leifer, co-author of the study, said in a press release. "Neuroscience is at the beginning of a transition towards larger-scale recordings of neural activity and towards studying animals under more natural conditions. This work helps push the field forward on both fronts."

The C. elegans nervous system is simple, offering Leifer and his team a basic testing ground for their instrument. It also disclosed information related to the working of neurons, in order to enhance understanding of complex organisms.

"One reason we were successful was that we chose to work with a very simple organism," he said. "It would be immensely more difficult to perform whole-brain recordings in humans. The technology needed to perform similar recordings in humans is many years away."

The article was published in the Sept. 30 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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