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New technique called light beads microscopy images a million neurons firing in the brain

12 October 2021

All Fired Up

On average, the human brain contains 86 billion neurons, each sending messages to one another that allow us to think, feel and do. Untangling this dense network reveals how our brains function. For scientists, capturing the complex connections between neurons with current techniques is a balancing act between resolution, scale and speed. With distant regions of the brain simultaneously firing, resolution is compromised to account for the large structure. Yet workarounds that piece images together compromise speed. To overcome these limitations, researchers have developed a new protocol, called light beads microscopy. Traditional techniques send a focused laser pulse at a target, which emits a fluorescent light indicative of neuroactivity. In light beads microscopy, this laser pulse is broken down into sub pulses, that can travel to different depths in the brain. The technique has yielded this crystal clear view of one million neurons firing near-simultaneously (highlighted in yellow) in a mouse brain.

Written by Katy Pallister

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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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