Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Tool for reading the minds of mice developed

Date:
February 19, 2013
Source:
Stanford University
Summary:
Scientists have developed a system for observing real-time brain activity in a live mouse. The device could prove useful in studying new treatments for neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's.

As the mouse explores the arena, neurons in its brain flash green when it recognizes a familiar spot.
Credit: Courtesy of Mark Schnitzer

Stanford scientists have developed a system for observing real-time brain activity in a live mouse. The device could prove useful in studying new treatments for neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's.

As the mouse explores the arena, neurons in its brain flash green when it recognizes a familiar spot.

If you want to read a mouse's mind, it takes some fluorescent protein and a tiny microscope implanted in the rodent's head.

Stanford scientists have demonstrated a technique for observing hundreds of neurons firing in the brain of a live mouse, in real time, and have linked that activity to long-term information storage. The unprecedented work could provide a useful tool for studying new therapies for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.

The researchers first used a gene therapy approach to cause the mouse's neurons to express a green fluorescent protein that was engineered to be sensitive to the presence of calcium ions. When a neuron fires, the cell naturally floods with calcium ions. Calcium stimulates the protein, causing the entire cell to fluoresce bright green.

A tiny microscope implanted just above the mouse's hippocampus -- a part of the brain that is critical for spatial and episodic memory -- captures the light of roughly 700 neurons. The microscope is connected to a camera chip, which sends a digital version of the image to a computer screen.

The computer then displays near real-time video of the mouse's brain activity as a mouse runs around a small enclosure, which the researchers call an arena.

The neuronal firings look like tiny green fireworks, randomly bursting against a black background, but the scientists have deciphered clear patterns in the chaos.

"We can literally figure out where the mouse is in the arena by looking at these lights," said Mark Schnitzer, an associate professor of biology and of applied physics and the senior author on the paper, recently published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

When a mouse is scratching at the wall in a certain area of the arena, a specific neuron will fire and flash green. When the mouse scampers to a different area, the light from the first neuron fades and a new cell sparks up.

"The hippocampus is very sensitive to where the animal is in its environment, and different cells respond to different parts of the arena," Schnitzer said. "Imagine walking around your office. Some of the neurons in your hippocampus light up when you're near your desk, and others fire when you're near your chair. This is how your brain makes a representative map of a space."

The group has found that a mouse's neurons fire in the same patterns even when a month has passed between experiments. "The ability to come back and observe the same cells is very important for studying progressive brain diseases," Schnitzer said.

For example, if a particular neuron in a test mouse stops functioning, as a result of normal neuronal death or a neurodegenerative disease, researchers could apply an experimental therapeutic agent and then expose the mouse to the same stimuli to see if the neuron's function returns.

Although the technology can't be used on humans, mouse models are a common starting point for new therapies for human neurodegenerative diseases, and Schnitzer believes the system could be a very useful tool in evaluating pre-clinical research.

The work was published Feb. 10 in the online edition of Nature Neuroscience. The researchers have formed a company to manufacture and sell the device.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Stanford University. The original article was written by Bjorn Carey. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Yaniv Ziv, Laurie D Burns, Eric D Cocker, Elizabeth O Hamel, Kunal K Ghosh, Lacey J Kitch, Abbas El Gamal, Mark J Schnitzer. Long-term dynamics of CA1 hippocampal place codes. Nature Neuroscience, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/nn.3329

Cite This Page:

Stanford University. "Tool for reading the minds of mice developed." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 February 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130219161250.htm>.
Stanford University. (2013, February 19). Tool for reading the minds of mice developed. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130219161250.htm
Stanford University. "Tool for reading the minds of mice developed." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130219161250.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

AP (July 28, 2014) West African nations and international health organizations are working to contain the largest Ebola outbreak in history. It's one of the deadliest diseases known to man, but the CDC says it's unlikely to spread in the U.S. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Newsy (July 28, 2014) The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs struck at the worst time for them. A new study says that if it hit earlier or later, they might've survived. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins