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Watching brain signals fire deep in the brain

21 December 2020

Fire Watch

The brain is constantly bombarded with information from inside and outside the body. While researchers try to predict what’s going on when brain cells (neurons) fire impulses at one another, they may now be able to watch their chemical chatter. Here a new speedy fluorescence microscope captures rapid pictures from inside a mouse’s brain, picking out waves of a fluorescently-labelled calcium sensor as impulses pass through an infragranular neuron – a cell type of the cerebral cortex. Capable of targeting cells at different depths in the brain (the red areas here are the deepest), the microscope hopefully will allow researchers to follow impulses travelling between brain areas… as well as watching when they don’t. Neurons must receive the right combination of signals to fire – ‘thresholds’ that neurodegenerative diseases may affect under the watchful eye of this new technology.

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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