Fluorescent Probe visualizes Brain Circuits

Researchers have demonstrated that they can picture the simultaneous electrical activity of many neurons in the brains of mice using a fluorescent probe that illuminates when brain cells are electrically active. Neuroscientists may be able to see the activity of brain circuits using this method, which can be carried out using a basic light microscope, and connect it to particular actions.

The researchers demonstrated that they could record electrical activity from many more neurons using this voltage-sensing molecule than they had been able to do with any other fluorescent probe that was completely genetically encoded.

The researchers created a different method of observing electrical activity in neurons in 2018 by labeling them with a fluorescent probe. The team created a molecule dubbed Archon1 that can be genetically inserted into neurons, where it becomes embedded in the cell membrane, using a method known as directed protein evolution. Standard light microscopes can see this fluorescence because it strengthens when a neuron’s electrical activity rises.

They demonstrated in their 2018 article that they could image electrical activity in the brains of transparent worms, zebrafish embryos, and mouse brain slices using the molecule. They intended to test it in the new research on awake, living mice performing a particular behavior.

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