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Video reveals brain activity patterns.

Video reveals brain activity patterns

A new video technique is allowing scientists to visualize working brain circuits with unprecedented detail in living salamanders. The technique is helping to show how the brain "maps" sensations, and may someday reveal the neural basis of learning, memory and thought, researchers say.

As reported in the Jan. 14 NATURE, John Kauer of the New England Medical Center in Boston applied a voltage-sensitive dye to exposed salamander brains and filmed the dye as it fluoresced in response to electrical activity of individual neurons. In this series of computer-enhanced video frames taken at 30-millisecond intervals, the spread of nerve firing within one plane of the brain can be observed following an initial electrical stimulation of the olfactory nerve. Green represents electrical activity more than 1 standard deviation (SD) above baseline; red represents activity 2 SDs above baseline. Superimposed black lines show divisions between different layers of the brain.

By focusing at different depths, scientists can obtain a three-dimensional image of neural activity for various sorts of stimulation.

"We don't really know how odors are encoded by a neural system," Kauer says. "But many, many cells participate in the response to each odor, and what we presently think is that it's the pattern of activity distributed across these many cells that encodes the odor. You can think of it as an ensemble or a hologram of some kind.

What we've developed is a way to record this ensemble activity." He says the new imaging system may help to validate some of the computer models that attempt to simulate neural networks (SN: 1/9/88, p.27).
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Publication:Science News
Date:Jan 23, 1988
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