Scientists Create An Imaging System That Can Reveal Neural Activities In 3-D
Researchers have created an imaging system that can reveal neural activities throughout the brains of living beings, generating 3-D movies of entire brain at the millisecond timescale.
Researchers said the technique, which is first of its kind, could help scientists discover how neuronal network process sensory information and generate behavior.
"Looking at the activity of just one neuron in the brain doesn't tell you how that information is being computed; for that, you need to know what upstream neurons are doing. And to understand what the activity of a given neuron means, you have to be able to see what downstream neurons are doing," said Ed Boyden, an associate professor of biological engineering and brain and cognitive sciences at MIT and one of the leaders of the research team, in the press release. "In short, if you want to understand how information is being integrated from sensation all the way to action, you have to see the entire brain."
The approach can also help neuroscientists know more about the biological basis of brain disorders.
"We don't really know, for any brain disorder, the exact set of cells involved," Boyden said. "The ability to survey activity throughout a nervous system may help pinpoint the cells or networks that are involved with a brain disorder, leading to new ideas for therapies."
Neurons encode information that includes sensory data, motor plans, emotional states and thoughts using action potentials. The process provokes calcium ions to stream into each cell as it fires. Researchers can engineer fluorescent proteins to glow when they bind calcium, visualizing electrical firing of neurons.
The research uses a new method based on a widely used technology called light-field imaging that creates 3-D images by measuring the angles of incoming rays of light.
Researchers have described the new approach in the journal Nature Methods.