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
  • Planes with Ukraine bodies arrive in Netherlands

    Two more military aircraft carrying remains of victims from the Malaysian plane disaster arrived in the Netherlands on Thursday, while Australian and Dutch diplomats joined to promote a plan for a U.N. team to secure the crash site which has been controlled by pro-Russian rebels.

    July 24, 2014

  • UN school in Gaza caught in cross-fire; 15 killed

    A U.N. school in Gaza crowded with hundreds of Palestinians seeking refuge from fierce fighting came under fire Thursday, killing at least 15 civilians and leaving a sad tableau of blood-spattered pillows, blankets and children’s clothing scattered in the courtyard.

    July 24, 2014

  • Air Algerie jet with 116 on board crashes in Mali

    An Air Algerie jetliner carrying 116 people crashed Thursday in a rainstorm over restive Mali, and its wreckage was found near the border of neighboring Burkina Faso — the third major international aviation disaster in a week.

    July 24, 2014

  • Troubled childhoods may prompt men to volunteer for military service

    In the era of the all-volunteer U.S. military, men who served are more than twice as likely as those who never did to have been sexually abused as children and to have grown up around domestic violence and substance abuse, a new study has found.

    July 24, 2014

  • As poverty continues to rise, fewer Ohioans are receiving state aid

    The number of Ohioans receiving public assistance continues to drop even while poverty increases, raising questions about how the state helps the poor.

    July 24, 2014

  • ’Saltwater’ from fracking spill much different from ocean water

    In early July, a million gallons of salty drilling waste spilled from a pipeline onto a steep hillside in western North Dakota’s Fort Berthold Reservation. The waste — a byproduct of oil and gas production — has now reached a tributary of Lake Sakakawea, which provides drinking water to the reservation.

    July 24, 2014

  • 40 bodies from jet solemnly returned to Dutch soil

    Victims of the Malaysian jetliner shot down over Ukraine returned at last Wednesday to Dutch soil in 40 wooden coffins, solemnly and gently carried to 40 identical hearses, flags at half-staff flapping in the wind.

    July 23, 2014

  • U.S. pushes for truce as Gaza battle rages

    The United States announced signs of progress in cease-fire talks Wednesday, but prospects for a quick end to the fighting were dim as Palestinian families fled fierce battles in southern Gaza and the death toll rose to more than 700 Palestinians and 34 Israelis.

    July 23, 2014

  • GROUNDED U.S., other countries ban flights to and from Israel

    A Hamas rocket exploded Tuesday near Israel’s main airport, prompting a ban on all flights from the U.S. and many from Europe and Canada as aviation authorities responded to the shock of seeing a civilian jetliner shot down over Ukraine.

    July 23, 2014

  • REPORT: Retaliation by supervisors common at VA

    A pharmacy supervisor at the VA was placed on leave after complaining about errors and delays in delivering medications to patients at a hospital in Palo Alto, California. In Pennsylvania, a doctor was removed from clinical work after complaining that on-call doctors were refusing to go to a VA hospital in Wilkes-Barre.

    July 22, 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