First fMRI images of individual neurons

A research team from CEA NeuroSpin and the Institut de neurosciences cognitives et intégratives d'Aquitaine (CNRS/Université de Bordeaux) demonstrated the possibility to obtain functional magnetic resonance images (fMRI) with single cell resolution. These results have been published in PNAS.

The researchers studied the Aplysia californica, a marine gastropod mollusk commonly known as "sea hare", whose nervous system is composed of a small number of neurons (20 000). They obtained images of the majority of neurons within the buccal ganglia of the animal using an ultra-high MRI system (17.2 T).

The technique implemented relied on injecting into the living animal small quantities (non-toxic doses) of a contrast agent, manganese, which enters and accumulates within active neurons. Maps of the manganese distribution within the buccal network were subsequently obtained revealing the neurons activated by different food stimuli.

The presence of an aliment in the animal's environment and its ingestion lead to different neuronal responses in the same neurons. Therefore, this microscopic fMRI technique can be used to probe the functional organization and plasticity of neuronal networks with single cell resolution

Applying this method to studying the entire of the Aplysia will allow, in the near future, investigations of functional alteration leading to neurological damage. Using the same approach to investigate vertebrate nervous systems is challenging but certainly not impossible. Magnetic resonance microscopy images of chemically fixed human and porcine have been obtained at lower magnetic field strengths. It is conceivable that the method published in PNAS coupled with improved hardware technologies (microcoils, stronger magnetic field gradients) will allow single-cell functional magnetic resonance studies of live mammalian tissues.

More information: Paper: Functional magnetic resonance microscopy at single-cell resolution in Aplysia californica, Guillaume Radecki, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1403739111

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Illuminating neuron activity in 3-D

May 18, 2014

Researchers at MIT and the University of Vienna have created an imaging system that reveals neural activity throughout the brains of living animals. This technique, the first that can generate 3-D movies ...

Perfecting the combined MR/PET

Jun 03, 2014

PET (Positron Emission Tomography) is an imaging technique that provides insight into the metabolic and functional alterations related to pathologic process. CT (Computerized X-Ray Tomography) and MRI (Magnetic ...

Better insight into brain anatomical structures

Jun 15, 2007

Magnetic resonance imaging is a very effective method for revealing anatomical details of soft tissues. Contrast agents can help to make these images even clearer and allow physiological processes to be followed in real time. ...

Recommended for you

Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D may control brain serotonin

16 hours ago

Although essential marine omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D have been shown to improve cognitive function and behavior in the context of certain brain disorders, the underlying mechanism has been unclear. In a new paper published ...

Researchers develop method for mapping neuron clusters

19 hours ago

A team of scientists has developed a method for identifying clusters of neurons that work in concert to guide the behavior. Their findings, which appear in the journal Neuron, address a long-standing mystery about the or ...

One brain area, two planning strategies

22 hours ago

Ready to strike, the spear fisherman holds his spear above the water surface. He aims at the fish. But he is misled by the view: Due to the refraction of light on the surface, he does not see the actual location ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.