Monday, July 31, 2006

Visualizing Plasticity

LifeScience News: MIT Researchers Watch Brain In Action

Thanks to a new imaging system, researchers at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory have gotten an unprecedented look into how genes shape the brain in response to the environment. Their work is reported in the July 28 issue of Cell.

"This work represents a technological breakthrough," said first author Kuan Hong Wang, a research scientist at the Picower Institute who will launch his own laboratory at the National Institute of Mental Health in the fall. "This is the first study that demonstrates the ability to directly visualize the molecular activity of individual neurons in the brain of live animals at a single-cell resolution, and to observe the changes in the activity in the same neurons in response to the changes of the environment on a daily basis for a week."

Um... Daaaaaaaaamn. Color me impressed.

I'm really not following the description of how they did it, other than that it involves taking transgenic mice with to tagged to Arc (a protein involved in plasticity) and installing "transparent cranial windows" in them. Now, I would certainly be inclined to argue that more brains should be covered by plastic windshields. Unfortunately, Cell's webpage is failing to load at the moment, so I'll have to patiently wait until later to figure this out.

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