A sensor that allows researchers to see signalling events between individual neurons may bring us a step closer to unravelling the mystery of how the brain processes information, according to an article in the February 2007 issue of Nature Methods.
We know the main players in information processing in the mammalian brain - neurons that form networks and communicate in distinct patterns - but the trick is to detect individual signalling events in single cells within these large networks. Scientists have attempted to study the patterns of communication between individual neurons in live animals for many years.
Griesbeck and colleagues successfully expressed a fluorescent protein-based sensor in the neurons of mice and showed that it was sensitive enough to detect a very low signal, as few as two action potentials, in individual nerve cells. This mouse will be an invaluable tool for deciphering the workings of the mammalian brain as it reveals the detailed patterns of communication between individual brain cells.
Oliver Griesbeck (Max Planck Institute for Neurobiology, Martinsried, Germany)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Methods press release.
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