mouse cells

Watching thoughts — and addiction — form in the brain

More than a hundred years ago, Ivan Pavlov conducted what would become one of the most famous and influential psychology studies — he conditioned dogs to salivate at the ringing of a bell. Now, scientists are able to see in real time what happens in the brains of live animals during this classic experiment with a new technique. Ultimately, the approach could lead to a greater understanding of how we learn, and develop and break addictions. 

(Image caption: In a mouse brain, cell-based detectors called CNiFERs change their fluorescence when neurons release dopamine. Credit: Slesinger & Kleinfeld labs)

Scientists presented their work at the 252nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

The study presented is part of the event: “Kavli symposium on chemical neurotransmission: What are we thinking?” It includes a line-up of global research and thought leaders at the multi-disciplinary interfaces of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative with a focus on chemists’ contributions. The effort was launched in 2013 by the Obama Administration to enable researchers to study how brain cells interact to form circuits.

“We developed cell-based detectors called CNiFERs that can be implanted in a mouse brain and sense the release of specific neurotransmitters in real time,” says Paul A. Slesinger, Ph.D., who used this tool to revisit Pavlov’s experiment. Neurotransmitters are the chemicals that transmit messages from one neuron to another.

CNiFERs stands for “cell-based neurotransmitter fluorescent engineered reporters.” These detectors emit light that is readable with a two-photon microscope and are the first optical biosensors to distinguish between the nearly identical neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. These signaling molecules are associated respectively with pleasure and alertness.

Slesinger, of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, collaborated on the project with David Kleinfeld, Ph.D., at the University of California at San Diego. Their team conditioned mice by playing a tone and then, after a short delay, rewarding them with sugar. After several days, the researchers could play the tone, and the mice would start licking in anticipation of the sugar.

“We were able to measure the timing of dopamine surges during the learning process,” Slesinger says. “That’s when we could see the dopamine signal was measured initially right after the reward. Then after days of training, we started to detect dopamine after the tone but before the reward was presented.”

Slesinger and colleagues will also share new results on the first biosensors that can detect a subset of neurotransmitters called neuropeptides. Ultimately, Slesinger says they’d like to use this sensing technique to directly measure these neuromodulators, which affect the rate of neuron firing, in real time.

Expression of combinations of three different fluorescent proteins in a mouse brain produced ten different colored neurons. Individual neurons in a mouse brain appear in different colors in a fluorescence microscope. This “Brainbow” method enables many distinct cells within a brain circuit to be viewed at one time. 

Visualizing the genome: First 3D structures of active DNA created

Scientists have determined the first 3D structures of intact mammalian genomes from individual cells, showing how the DNA from all the chromosomes intricately folds to fit together inside the cell nuclei.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge and the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology used a combination of imaging and up to 100,000 measurements of where different parts of the DNA are close to each other to examine the genome in a mouse embryonic stem cell. Stem cells are ‘master cells’, which can develop – or 'differentiate’ – into almost any type of cell within the body.

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Mouse hippocampus

The hippocampus is found deep in the brains of many mammals, including humans. It’s named for its seahorse shape (in Greek, hippokampos literally means “horse sea monster”).

It helps us form memories and navigate space. It contains special cells called “place cells” that create a mental map of our environment. The hippocampus is also one of the first structures to suffer in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, which is characterized by memory loss. The number of patients with Alzheimer’s is predicted to triple by 2050.

Scientists at Harvard Medical School were recently able to re-create Alzheimer’s disease from human cells in a culture dish. This will “revolutionize drug discovery in terms of speed, costs and [disease relevance],” according to a senior co-author on the study.

Image by Chris Henstridge/MTA-KOKI/Nikon Small World.
Neural lace has been invented to organically connect your brain with a computer
Researchers have built a tiny flexible electronic mesh sensor that can integrate with the brain.

Scientists from China and the US have found a pioneering way to inject a tiny electronic mesh sensor into the brain that fully integrates with cerebral matter and enables computers to monitor brain activity.

Researchers from Harvard and the National Center for Nanoscience and Technology in Beijing have succeeded in inventing a flexible electrical circuit that fits inside a 0.1mm-diameter glass syringe in a water-based solution.

When injected into the brains of mice, the mesh unfurled to 30 times its size and mouse brain cells grew around the mesh, forming connections with the wires in the flexible mesh circuit. The biochemical mouse brain completely accepted the mechanical component and integrated with it without any damage being caused to the mouse.

                                    you’re the only constant presence in my life
                                    (you && the faceless nightmare following us)
                   proxyshipping fanmix [ christmas gift for kralied ]

                                            [ LISTEN HERE ] // [ ART CREDIT ]

           01. the one that got away - civil wars    Ⓧ  02. king rat - modest
 Ⓧ  03. cells - the servant  Ⓧ  04. dead boy  -  bleached 
        Ⓧ  05. take me to hospital - the faint  Ⓧ  06. crows - the gothic
 Ⓧ 07. sleep awake - mother mother Ⓧ 08. spiderhead
        - cage the elephant
 Ⓧ 09. medisin - the classic crime Ⓧ 10. no
        one to nothing - mother mother  
  Ⓧ   11. human - civil twilight 
        12. life like weeds - modest mouse  Ⓧ  13. doppelganger - the
        antlers //
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Scientists have used mouse skin cells to create stem cells, which were then used to create mice eggs that produced healthy baby mice. Those mice were later able to reproduce completely on their own.

A Brain to Behold

Stories and ruminations about the brain’s complexity are abundant, i.e. it’s the most mysterious and least understood object in the known universe.

No argument here; true comprehension of the complexity of that 3-pound mass atop your spine may be a task only the brain itself can handle. Case in point: this 3D reconstruction of nerve cell connections in mouse retina, which isn’t as complex as the brain but must nonetheless possess sufficient tools to communicate effectively with it.

The image comes from a 2014 paper by Jinseop Kim and colleagues investigating how mammalian retinas detect motion. It’s a question that remains unsolved. The reconstructed wiring diagram above was crowdsourced and shows both retina bipolar cells and off-type starburst amacrine cells.

It’s equally beautiful and confounding.