Peering into the Brain with Prism Lenses
David - It's been a busy month. Last week I was at the 57th Annual Meeting of the Biophysical Society over in Philadelphia, and heard about some great advances in neuroscience. The first news item I'd like to talk about this week was from a presentation at this conference by Michael Levene, over at Yale University. Using some cutting edge optical techniques Dr Levene and his colleagues have been able to image the brains of mice in real time using tiny lenses called micro-prisms.
Hannah - So they are using small lenses to magnify looking into live brain as it does its job. How are they doing this exactly?
David - The group are able to surgically implant these tiny prisms into the brains of living mice, causing only very slight damage to the brain. They can then shine a laser through this prism and visualise the brain in real time and record from these mice for months.
Hannah - Wow. So you can image the brain of a living mouse. What else have the group managed to do with this technology?
David - Well one of the most remarkable things they are doing is using the prisms to visualise the layers of the cerebral cortex, a technique that has previously required taking slices of the brain. Using the micro-prism, the scientists can shine their laser microscope beam so that it runs perpendicular to the surface of the brain, giving us an insight into how brain cells in the cortex interact with one another.
Hannah - So is this looking deep into the brain? Why is this area so important to study?
David - Well in living mice we can see how the cells in different layers of the cortex interact with one another during activities like running or sleeping. This gives us a real picture of what the brain looks like on a cellular level, while its working!
Hannah - This technique sounds amazing. Look forwards to hearing more about what they find out with it.