Looking at neurons from all sides

April 27, 2008

A new technique that marries a fast-moving laser beam with a special microscope that look at tissues in different optical planes will enable scientists to get a three-dimensional view of neurons or nerve cells as they interact, said Baylor College of Medicine scientists in a report that appears today in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

“Most microscopes can only study cell function in two dimensions,” said Dr. Gaddum Duemani Reddy, an M.D./Ph.D. student at BCM at Houston and Rice University and also first author of the study. “To look at different planes, you have move your preparation (of cells) or the objective lens. That takes time, and we are looking at processes that happen in milliseconds.”

To solve that problem, he said, they developed a “trick” to quickly move a laser beam in three dimensions and then adapted that laser beam to the multi-photon microscope they were using. That allowed them to “see” the neuron’s function in three dimensions, giving them a much better view of its activity.

A multiphoton microscope looks much like a conventional, upright microscope but it has an adaption that allows it to look at tissues in sections. A conventional multiphoton microscope does that very slowly, he said.

“With ours, you can do it very quickly. We are starting to see how a single neuron behaves in our laboratory,” he said. The next step, he said, will be to use to it to look a clusters or colonies of neurons. This will enable them to actually see the neuronal interactions.

“At present, the technology is applied in my lab to study information processing of single neurons in brain slice preparations by 3D multi-site optical recording,” said Dr. Peter Saggau, professor of neuroscience at BCM and the paper’s senior author.

He is collaborating with two other labs on using the technology in other ways. In one, he said, researchers plan to use the technology to monitor nerve activity in the brains of lab animals in order study how populations of neurons communicate during visual stimulation. Another study attempts to use the technology to monitor stimulation of the acoustic nerve optically. Those scientists hope to reinstate hearing in lab animals whose inner ear receptors do not work.

Source: Baylor College of Medicine

Explore further: Take a fantastic 3-D voyage through the brain with new immersive virtual reality system

Related Stories

Take a fantastic 3-D voyage through the brain with new immersive virtual reality system

November 15, 2017
A new immersive virtual reality (VR) experience now offers a unique way to visualize and interact with large volumes of 3D anatomical brain data. The system, developed by researchers from the Wyss Center for Bio and Neuroengineering ...

How to control traffic on cellular highways

November 9, 2017
Inside cells, protein "motors" act like trucks on tiny cellular highways to deliver life-sustaining cargoes.

Selective PDE4D inhibitor shows potential to treat Fragile X autism spectrum disorder

November 7, 2017
New preclinical research suggests the potential utility of BPN14770, a selective PDE4D inhibitor currently under development by Tetra Discovery Partners as a prospective treatment for memory and cognitive problems associated ...

Inflamed support cells appear to contribute to some kinds of autism

October 18, 2017
Modeling the interplay between neurons and astrocytes derived from children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues in Brazil, say innate ...

Flashing neurons in worms reveal how the brain generates behavior

October 4, 2017
The 100 billion neurons of the human brain control our behavior, but so far there is no way to keep track of all that activity, cell by cell. Whole-brain imaging techniques like fMRI offer only a blurry view of the action, ...

Pathway in neurons may contribute to neurodegenerative disease

October 4, 2017
An injury pathway in the neurons of fruit flies may cause the loss of synapses in diseases such as Alzheimer's and ALS, according to University of Michigan researchers.

Recommended for you

Hibernating ground squirrels provide clues to new stroke treatments

November 17, 2017
In the fight against brain damage caused by stroke, researchers have turned to an unlikely source of inspiration: hibernating ground squirrels.

Age and gut bacteria contribute to multiple sclerosis disease progression

November 17, 2017
Researchers at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School published a study suggesting that gut bacteria at young age can contribute to multiple sclerosis (MS) disease onset and progression.

Molecular guardian defends cells, organs against excess cholesterol

November 16, 2017
A team of researchers at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health has illuminated a critical player in cholesterol metabolism that acts as a molecular guardian in cells to help maintain cholesterol levels within a safe, ...

Prototype ear plug sensor could improve monitoring of vital signs

November 16, 2017
Scientists have developed a sensor that fits in the ear, with the aim of monitoring the heart, brain and lungs functions for health and fitness.

Ancient enzyme could boost power of liquid biopsies to detect and profile cancers

November 16, 2017
Scientists are developing a set of medical tests called liquid biopsies that can rapidly detect the presence of cancers, infectious diseases and other conditions from only a small blood sample. Researchers at The University ...

FDA to crack down on risky stem cell offerings

November 16, 2017
U.S. health authorities announced plans Thursday to crack down on doctors pushing stem cell procedures that pose the gravest risks to patients amid an effort to police a burgeoning medical field that previously has received ...

0 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.