-Expect an imminent ‘Hard Takeoff’ in brain research.

Posted: October 8, 2008 in 2008, Articles
Tags: ,

Mini microscope captures live brain-cell action.

New Scientist (snippet):

A microscope small enough to be mounted to the head of a freely moving mouse makes it possible to watch brain cell activity and whole animal behaviour simultaneously in mice. The device offers researchers a new way to study of human diseases using transgenic mice.

Since researchers created the first transgenic mice in the 1980s, the mouse has become the lab animal of choice for medical research. There are now mouse “models” for a wide range of human genetic disorders, from Parkinson’s to asthma.

But correlating the activity inside cells with the behaviour of an animal as a whole is still a challenge, says Mark Schnitzer at Stanford University.

“A lot of work has been done using brain slices, or anaesthetised animals – even using animals that are awake but restrained,” he says. But so far it has been impossible to image cellular-level activity in a freely moving mouse.

Schnitzer’s team has now made it possible. They designed a tiny microscope weighing just 1.1 grams that can be worn by a mouse without significantly impairing its movement. The device has already been used to study the circulation of blood through the one-cell-wide capillaries in the brain of active mice.

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