Scientists record the first video of thoughts forming in the brain

George Dvorsky
FEB 1, 2013 8:00 AM

Japanese researchers have recorded a real-time video of thoughts forming in the brain of a live animal as it stalks its prey. The breakthrough was made possible by using zebrafish — a species with a translucent head — and a fluorescent protein that lights up when single neurons are activated. And this study may give rise to an entirely new way to study and track brain patterns in living creatures.

The study, which now appears in Current Biology, was conducted by a team of researchers at Japan’s National Institute of Genetics in Shizuoka Prefecture.

In order to create the visual effect, the scientists used green fluorescent proteins (GFPs) which light up when calcium concentrations arise. Scientists typically use custom-made GFPs to create an image of cellular activity in real time — but until now, it hadn’t been attempted on live fish as they freely move about.

Once the GFP was developed (a genetically engineered protein called GCaMP7a), the team tested it on genetically modified zebrafish larvae, that were between four and seven days old. At this stage in their life they are still transparent, allowing the scientists to peer non-invasively into their brains.

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