New imaging technique reveals brain circuit functioning


A new way to take brain images, which monitors how brain cells organize with one another to delegate behaviors, has been discovered by neuroscientists. This new technique could potentially identify information about diseases like autism and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

The new technique recognizes calcium ions in neurons and tracks the way brain circuits perform functions, like detecting a smell or starting a physical movement.

How the brain functions normally vs. with disease

"To understand psychiatric disorders we need to study animal models, and to find out what’s happening in the brain when the animal is behaving abnormally this is a very powerful tool that will really help us understand animal models of these diseases and study how the brain functions normally and in a diseased state," said senior author Guoping Feng.

Tracking cell activity with fluorescence

All types of brain function require that neurons in separate parts of the brain exchange information with one another. They send electrical signals which prompt an influx of calcium ions to the active cells. Researchers use a green fluorescent protein (GFP) to attach to the calcium so its activity can be seen with the new imaging.

Next tests are for OCD and autism

All experiments have been conducted with mice. Scientists are now developing mice which show symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder and autistic behavior.

"Right now, we only know that defects in neuron-neuron communications play a key role in psychiatric disorders. We do not know the exact nature of the defects and the specific cell types involved. If we knew what cell types are abnormal, we could find ways to correct abnormal firing patterns," concluded Feng.

Source: Medical News Today, Neuron

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