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Nanoscale neuronal activity measured for first time

Date:
September 18, 2013
Source:
Queen Mary, University of London
Summary:
A new technique that allows scientists to measure the electrical activity in the communication junctions of the nervous systems has been developed, and offers a new and unique viewpoint into something not seen before in science.
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The junctions in the central nervous systems that enable the information to flow between neurons, known as synapses, are around 100 times smaller than the width of a human hair (one micrometer and less) and as such are difficult to target let alone measure.
Credit: Queen Mary, University of London

A new technique that allows scientists to measure the electrical activity in the communication junctions of the nervous systems has been developed by a researcher at Queen Mary University of London.

The junctions in the central nervous systems that enable the information to flow between neurons, known as synapses, are around 100 times smaller than the width of a human hair (one micrometer and less) and as such are difficult to target let alone measure.

By applying a high-resolution scanning probe microscopy that allows three-dimensional visualisation of the structures, the team were able to measure and record the flow of current in small synaptic terminals for the first time.

"We replaced the conventional low-resolution optical system with a high-resolution microscope based on a nanopipette," said Dr Pavel Novak, a bioengineering specialist from Queen Mary's School of Engineering and Materials Science.

"The nanopipette hovers above the surface of the sample and scans the structure to reveal its three-dimensional topography. The same nanopipette then attaches to the surface at selected locations on the structure to record electrical activity. By repeating the same procedure for different locations of the neuronal network we can obtain a three-dimensional map of its electrical properties and activity."

The research, published today in Neuron, opens a new window into the neuronal activity at nanometre scale, and may contribute to the wider effort of understanding the function of the brain represented by the Brain Activity Map Project (BRAIN initiative), which aims to map the function of each individual neuron in the human brain.


Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Queen Mary, University of London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Pavel Novak, Julia Gorelik, Umesh Vivekananda, Andrew I. Shevchuk, Yaroslav S. Ermolyuk, Russell J. Bailey, Andrew J. Bushby, Guy W.J. Moss, Dmitri A. Rusakov, David Klenerman, Dimitri M. Kullmann, Kirill E. Volynski, Yuri E. Korchev. Nanoscale-Targeted Patch-Clamp Recordings of Functional Presynaptic Ion Channels. Neuron, 2013; 79 (6): 1067 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2013.07.012

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Queen Mary, University of London. "Nanoscale neuronal activity measured for first time." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 September 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130918130644.htm>.
Queen Mary, University of London. (2013, September 18). Nanoscale neuronal activity measured for first time. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 4, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130918130644.htm
Queen Mary, University of London. "Nanoscale neuronal activity measured for first time." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130918130644.htm (accessed July 4, 2015).

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