The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

June 21, 2014

Scientists cast light on the brain’s social cells

Picture yourself hovering over an alien city with billions of blinking lights of thousands of types, with the task of figuring out which ones are connected, which way the electricity flows and how that translates into nightlife.

Welcome to the deep brain.

Even in an era rapidly becoming known as the heyday of neuroscience, tracing the biochemical signaling among billions of neurons deep in the brain has remained elusive and baffling.

A team of Stanford University researchers managed to map out one such connection, buried inside the brain of a living, moving mammal as they manipulated its behavior. The feat offers an unprecedented close-up of the genesis of social behavior on a cellular level, and could offer insights into psychiatric puzzles such as autism, depression and anxiety.

“It’s a new kind of data that no one has been able to get before - a single kind of cell projecting from one deep brain area to another deep brain area during behavior,” said Stanford bioengineer and neuroscientist Karl Deisseroth, senior author of the study published online this week in the journal Cell.

Deisseroth’s team relied on genetics, fiber-optics and a bunch of female mice.

The Deisseroth lab at Stanford had already pioneered the use of optogenetics in neuroscience, a technique that delivers light through a hair-thin probe to stimulate cells that have been modified with a light-sensitive gene. First demonstrated in 2007, optogenetic stimulation not only changed the scale and precision involved in exploring the brain, it allowed researchers to better discern cause and effect, which often were muddled by conventional imaging and detection devices.

Researchers soon began using the technique widely to manipulate the brain cells of laboratory animals. They discovered that stimulating one brain cell had a profound effect on behavior.

Finding out how this works, however, depended on tracing the connections, or “projections,” from the stimulated neurons.

The deep brain is a very “noisy” place. The tiny voltage changes that propagate along axons, the slender fibers that extend from the nucleus of a neuron, are difficult to distinguish. Researchers routinely add fluorescent properties to the calcium ions that help drive these voltage change in axons, so they can “see” large-scale evidence of activity. But no one had been able to track that signal in an axon while an animal reacted to the stimulation.

“It’s buried in the noise and it’s too small to see in a behaving animal,” Deisseroth said. “We’ve never been able to see it. We’ve never been able to observe how animals normally use projections.”

The Stanford team tried a new trick. The researchers delivered the light at a specific frequency by chopping it up with what amounts to a fancy pinwheel. Since the calcium ions fluoresce at the same frequency as the incoming light, the team designed a device to pick up only that signal. That allowed them to follow the signal in real time while they chronicled the animal’s behavior. They call the new technique fiber photometry.

The rest was relatively simple rodent play. Lab members placed the probes in the areas they had altered for optogenetic stimulation, set up the detection instruments, then ran trials to test the mouse’s reaction to other mice.

1
Text Only
World, nation, state
  • Deep-sea octopus goes without food for 4.5 years while watching eggs

    Talk about extreme parenting: Scientists have found a deep-sea octopus mama that faithfully guards the same clutch of eggs for an incredible 4 1/2 years — a record.

    July 31, 2014

  • Study finds 35 percent in U.S. facing debt collectors

    More than 35 percent of Americans have debts and unpaid bills that have been reported to collection agencies, according to a study released Tuesday by the Urban Institute.

    July 30, 2014

  • U.S. blasts Israel for Kerry criticism

    The Obama administration pushed back strongly Monday at a torrent of Israeli criticism over Secretary of State John Kerry’s latest bid to secure a cease-fire with Hamas, accusing some in Israel of launching a “misinformation campaign” against the top American diplomat.

    July 29, 2014

  • Outlook on Medicare finances improves

    Medicare’s finances are looking brighter, the government said Monday. The program’s giant hospital trust fund won’t be exhausted until 2030 — four years later than last year’s estimate.

    July 29, 2014

  • Plan to simplify 2015 health renewals may backfire

    If you have health insurance on your job, you probably don’t give much thought to each year’s renewal. But make the same assumption in one of the new health law plans, and it could lead to costly surprises.

    July 28, 2014

  • Hospital shooting suspect charged with murder

    A man accused of fatally shooting his caseworker and grazing his psychiatrist at a suburban Philadelphia hospital complex before the doctor returned fire has been charged with murder.

    July 28, 2014

  • Man seeks video of Oklahoma City bombing

    One man’s quest to explain his brother’s mysterious jail cell death 19 years ago has rekindled long-dormant questions about whether others were involved in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

    July 28, 2014

  • Bill in Congress to help veterans with PTSD

    A group of lawmakers have joined together to help veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Post Traumatic Brain Injury (PTBI) and other war injuries get speedy medical treatment — and avoid Veteran’s Administration bureaucracy and Department of Defense lack of accountability.

    July 28, 2014

  • U.S.: Russia has fired rockets into Ukraine

    Stepping up pressure on Moscow, the U.S. on Sunday released satellite images it says show that rockets have been fired from Russia into neighboring eastern Ukraine and that heavy artillery for separatists also has crossed the border.

    July 28, 2014

  • U.S. says Russia is firing across border into Ukraine

    Russia is launching artillery attacks from its soil on Ukrainian troops and preparing to move heavier weaponry across the border, the U.S. and Ukraine charged Friday in what appeared to be an ominous escalation of the crisis.

    July 25, 2014

House Ads
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
AP Video