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New microscopy technique allows the routes of individual neurons to be observed in 3D analyses

14 May 2019

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Our neurons grow tiny branches called neurites to connect with other cells, stretching into networks which help us to process and respond to the outside world. There are billions of neurons in the brain so spotting patterns among them is sometimes as challenging as “seeing the wood for the trees”. Yet in this mouse brain, a technique called brainbow ‘paints’ neurons with different colours using fluorescent proteins, allowing a new microscopy technique called ChroMS to pick out individual cells among the busy branches. Capturing the scene in high resolution, we can take a virtual stroll through the nearby brain forest but also – later in the video – zoom out to trace the delicate shapes of individual neuronal ‘trees’ in the cerebral cortex. This powerful combination of techniques may reveal more about how different brain areas communicate, and how changes brought about by ageing or disease might alter these patterns.

Written by John Ankers

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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