From Medical Xpress:
Voltage spreading through a fly neuron over several milliseconds. Credit: Gong et al./Science
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers at Stanford University has announced the development of a new tool that they claim will offer unprecedented insight into the actions of neurons inside a living creature. In their paper published in the journal Science the team outlines how the tool works and how they believe it might be used with future research efforts. Emily Underwood, a staff writer with the journal, offers an ‘In Depth’ piece on the work done by the team in same issue.
To better understand how the brain works, scientists would ideally be able to watch in real time as neurons fire and then as those electrical signals make their way through the neural network and interact with other neurons. Making this happen, would of course mean creating tools that are able to offer a way to view brain activity in a living organism. Thus far, such efforts have met with limited success, due, as Underwood points out, to techniques that are too slow or are so limited in scope that they do not offer much in the way of meaningful information. In this new effort, the researchers describe a new tool they have developed that allows for actually watching as neurons spike—in awake mice and flies—a new type of genetically encoded voltage indicator.
The tool is an improvement on earlier neuron membrane voltage indicators because it is both faster and brighter—to make it,…