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Medicine Science

First Movie of an Entire Brain's Neuronal Activity 44

Posted by timothy
from the may-not-be-suitable-for-children dept.
KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "One of the goals of neuroscience is to understand how brains process information and generate appropriate behaviour. A technique that is revolutionising this work is optogenetics--the ability to insert genes into neurons that fluoresce when the neuron is active. That works well on the level of single neurons but the density of neurons in a brain is so high that it has been impossible to tell them apart when they fluoresce. Now researchers have solved this problem and proved it by filming the activity in the entire brain of a nematode worm for the first time and making the video available. Their solution comes in two parts. The first is to ensure that the inserted genes only fluoresce in the nuclei of the neurons. This makes it much easier to tell individual neurons in the brain apart. The second is a new techniques that scans the entire volume of the brain at a rate of 80 frames per second, fast enough to register all the neuronal activity within it. The researchers say their new technique should allow bigger brains to be filmed in the near future, opening up the potential to study how various creatures process information and trigger an appropriate response for the first time."
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First Movie of an Entire Brain's Neuronal Activity

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  • by Ferrofluid (2979761) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @04:27PM (#47276461)

    You look for cellular activities which correspond to cancerous behavior, and when you see them, you tell that cell to kill itself

    That's kind of what's already supposed to happen naturally inside the human body. Cells are supposed to kill themselves if they are severely malfunctioned or are likely to become cancerous. However, if enough of these fail-safe mechanisms are damages within a cell, then that cell becomes cancerous. That's why cancer is so difficult to treat, and why your own immune system has difficulty attacking it -- the cancer cells have gone rogue and are no longer "following orders" to kill themselves.

    So, if you were able to insert genes into cells, which would allow the cells to kill themselves upon activation by a certain light wavelength, then what would happen? Say you illuminate the tumour with that particular wavelength. Perhaps 99.9% of the cells will undergo apoptosis, as instructed. But maybe 0.1% acquired a mutation which disabled your fail-safe genes. Now what? Congratulations -- the cancer has now evolved to be resistant to your light-induced apoptosis commands. And you're back to square one.

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