Seeing the Brain With New CLARITY
A new brain imaging technique called CLARITY allows neural structures to be reconstructed in three dimensions better than ever before. It does so by turning the brain “transparent”.
Truly understanding the inner workings of the brain means studying not only how individual neurons function, but also how they are wired together. Even with techniques like the beautiful “brainbow”, untangling spaghetti-like long-range connections has proven difficult.
Stanford University neuroscientists have taken a step in that direction with their new CLARITY method. Neurons and other cells are normally labeled by sticking fluorescent tags on various proteins and other molecules that a researcher wants to study. That way we can literally see where and how they function. But looking into a three-dimensional brain is like peering into murky water: the fatty cell membranes and neuron sheaths just get in the way.
The Stanford researchers immobilized these mouse brains in a gel, then washed away all the murky muck. This left all the connections and proteins in their right place, free to be labeled in a clear block of brain Jell-O.
For more: Head over to Nature News to read more, and be sure to watch their great, detailed video to find out more about how it was done. If you’re interested, here’s the research paper in this week’s Nature.
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