MIT neuroscientists used calcium imaging to label these pyramidal cells in the brain
(credit: Qian Chen/MIT)

Mapping brain circuits for specific functions

New way to image brain-cell activity could shed light on autism and other psychiatric disorders

October 19, 2012

A team led by MIT neuroscientists has developed a way to monitor how brain cells coordinate with each other to control specific behaviors, such as initiating movement or detecting an odor.

The researchers’ new imaging technique, based on the detection of calcium ions in neurons, could help them map the brain circuits that perform such functions.

It could also provide new insights into the origins of psychiatric diseases, says Guoping Feng, senior author of a paper appearing in the Oct. 18 issue of the journal Neuron.

“To understand psychiatric disorders we need to study animal models, and to find out what’s happening in the brain when the animal is behaving abnormally,” says Feng, the James W. and Patricia Poitras Professor of Neuroscience and a member of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT. “This is a very powerful tool that will really help us understand animal models of these diseases and study how the brain functions normally and in a diseased state.”

Read more: Mapping brain circuits for specific functions | KurzweilAI.

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