By tracking calcium waves in networks of brain cells, researchers can see changes in membrane voltage, which offers insights into how neurons and other brains cells, including astrocytes, communicate. A better understanding of how the brain works from this bottom-up perspective could lead researchers closer to answering some of the deepest questions in neuroscience. Calcium imaging is emerging as the primary method for interrogating the activity of cellular neural networks, explained Silva, whose Cellular Neural Engineering laboratory focuses, in part, on how information flows through networks of brain cells. According to Silva, answering some of the deepest questions in neurosciencelike What are the origins of creativity, logical reasoning, consciousness and emotions?will require a better understanding of how information is processed by functional networks in the brains of humans and other species.
"We are just getting to the point where the math and engineering methods are starting to be developed to allow one to study brain networks at the scale of individual cells," said Silva. His lab collaborates with Henry Abarbanel's group in the Department of Physics at UC San Diego on mathematical modeling of neurophysiological systems and computational neuroscience.
In the ASN NEURO paper, the researchers used calcium imaging to study a purified astrocyte network. Meanwhile, novel complementary techniques, including "two photon optical microscopy" are raising the possibility of experimental tools capable of testing and validating new theories about how the brain functions from the perspective of cellular networks. This technology could also help researchers uncover how individual brain cells behave as signals propagate through a given network. The Silva lab collaborates with Anna Devor's Neurovascular Imaging Laboratory in the Department of Neuroscience at UC San Diego on experimental cellular imaging and neu
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University of California - San Diego