Harvard Medical School researchers have applied a new microscopy technique in a living animal brain that for the first time reveals highly sophisticated time-lapse images of many neurons coordinating to produce complex patterns of activity. The approach will open up new avenues for analyzing neurodegenerative diseases and other aspects of the brain. “Put simply, this technique allows us to see the brain seeing,” said R. Clay Reid, HMS professor of neurobiology, a member of the HMS Systems Neuroscience initiative, and principal investigator on the project. “It’s an entirely new way of looking at brain function.”
The method, the first to track the responses of all the neurons in a visual circuit simultaneously, promises to rapidly advance our understanding of how the brain is wired for complex image processing. Lessons learned by studying the visual system may eventually apply to other brain functions like movement, thinking, and learning, as well as neurodegenerative diseases.