Researchers have managed to keep tabs on 1 million different neurons in the brains of mice at one time – taking scientists an impressive step closer towards one day being able to track the very-complex activity of human brains.
The key is an innovation that's being called 'light beads microscopy'. It improves on current two-photon microscopy, using lasers to trigger introduced fluorescence in living cells. As the cells are lit up, scientists can see how they're moving and interacting.
With light beads microscopy, scientists can get the speed, scale, and resolution required to map a mouse brain in detail as its neural activity changes. The near-simultaneous tracking can last for as long as the light beads are able to stay illuminated.
"Understanding the nature of the brain's densely interconnected network requires developing novel imaging techniques that can capture the activity of neurons across vastly separated brain regions at high speed and single-cell resolution," says neuroscientist Alipasha Vaziri, from the Rockefeller University in New York.
"We need to capture many neurons at distant parts of the brain at the same time at high resolution. These parameters are almost mutually exclusive."