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Blinking neurons give thoughts away
Date:5/5/2010

ins Mazahir Hasan from the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research.

The scientists were able to investigate activity in single cells as well as in whole groups of nerve cells. "YC3.60 has therefore proven to be a suitable tool for studying nerve tissue at different levels: on the one hand, we can monitor the fluctuation of calcium to infer action potentials within nerve cells. And what is even more advantageous, we can simultaneously measure the activity of neural networks or entire brain regions," says Mazahir Hasan. Consequently, the next step the scientists want to do is to selectively introduce cameleon proteins into a specific cortical layer or into different types of nerve cells. "Then we may be in a position to understand how different nerve cells in brain circuits generate complex behaviours," states Mazahir Hasan hopefully.

Measuring without electrodes

Cameleon proteins could therefore revolutionize the study of electrical activity in the brain. To date, the only way scientists could do this is by inserting electrodes into the nerve tissue or the cells. This electrode technique is blind to cell identity and it damages the tissue. By contrast, the cameleon protein's colour changes can be observed in a much less invasive procedure using glass fibres as light conductors or with the help of modern fluorescence microscopes known as two-photon laser-scanning microscopes. Moreover, cameleon proteins can be formed by cells themselves provided a corresponding section of DNA has been inserted into the genome in advance. In the experiments conducted by the scientists, viruses served as the vehicle for smuggling the genetic information for the cameleon proteins into the nerve cells.

In two earlier studies, an international team of scientists headed by Mazahir Hasan were the first to demonstrate that similar genetic probes can successfully detect natural sensation (such as smell and touch) in the mammalian brain in the for
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Contact: Mazahir T. Hasan
mazahir.hasan@mpimf-heidelberg.mpg.de
49-622-148-6617
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

Page: 1 2 3

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