Neuroscience: In-vivo all-optical interrogation of neural networks

In-vivo 2-photon fluorescence image of a mouse brain. The calcium indicating protein is fluorescent in the green channel, the light sensitive ion channel is labelled with the red fluorescent mcherry protein in order to help identify the cells to be targeted by the stimulation laser. The 100 numbered circles mark target neurons.

Understanding neuronal communication.

Understanding ongoing processes within the brain at the cellular level enables us to determine the physiological basis of cognition and nurtures our hopes of curing brain diseases which are nowadays difficult to medicate or are considered as immedicable. In order to understand neural processes it is important to be able to both record the activity of large numbers of neurons and to manipulate and probe that activity to uncover functional network structure and links to cognition and behavior. In a groundbreaking experiment neuroscientists from the group of Professor Michael Häusser at University College London have succeeded in observing and controlling the activity of defined cell types at an unprecedented level. The underlying learning loop includes behavioral tasks, imaging of activity patterns in the brain, and replaying the same patterns in the identified specific functional neurons (Fig. 1). Cellular resolution functionally defined optogenetics has thus moved from being a ‘dream experiment’ to a real application, enabling a deeper insight into neuronal communication.

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Authors: Patrizia Krok (Menlo Systems), Michael Mei (Menlo Systems), Nick Robinson (UCL)

Contact email address: p.krok(at)menlosystems.com