To deepen their understanding of the brain, neuroscientists must be able to map in great detail the neural circuits that are responsible for tasks such as processing sensory information or forming new memories. Now, a team of researchers has described a new integrated neurophotonics approach that may allow for the activity of all of the thousands to millions of neurons within a particular brain circuit to be observed in real-time.
The new integrated neurophotonics technique uses tiny arrays of optical microchips that can be implanted at any depth inside the brain, in combination with fluorescent molecular reporters and optogenetic actuators, to optically monitor neurons and control their activity, respectively.
The arrays emit microscale beams of light to stimulate the genetically modified neurons around them and at the same time record the activity of these cells, revealing their function. Although the work is currently done only in animal models, it could one day help to unravel circuitry deep inside the human brain.