An international team of researchers used an optical probe to capture and pinpoint the brain’s neural activity epicenter. The method lays the groundwork for new ways to map connections across different brain regions, which could lead to the development of devices to image different brain areas and even treat conditions caused by malfunctions in the cells that inhabit these regions.
One of the most difficult challenges in modern neuroscience is recording information exchange between different brain regions and cell types. The new method overcomes this limitation by allowing the simultaneous collection of signals from multiple brain regions using a tapered optical probe.
The researchers used light to decode specific neuronal populations’ activity and manipulate different brain regions with a single probe. The method involves inserting fluorescent molecules into specific nerve cells to monitor their electric activity and neurotransmitter levels — molecules that act as chemical messengers between neurons.
The optical probe method has effectively allowed scientists to measure the concentration of specific neurotransmitters during specific actions and to capture how nerve signals travel in time and space. The method broadens researchers’ methodological arsenal and improves their ability to study the central nervous system and investigate the molecular causes of neurological disorders.