Princeton University researchers have recorded the first ever video of brain activity in freely moving animal.
Princeton University researchers have recorded the first ever video of brain activity in a freely moving animal. The 3D video captures a warm species known as nematode Caenorhabditis elegans’ neural activity as it moves around.
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The roughly 1 millimeter long worm contains 302 neurons in its nervous system and 77 of those neurons light up as the worm thinks and plans a specific behavior such as backward or forward motion and turning.
This is the first time when nearly entire brain of a moving animal has been recorded. Many previous works related to neuron activity either focused on small regions of brain or recorded brain activity of unconscious or limited moving organisms.
“This system is exciting because it provides the most detailed picture yet of brain-wide neural activity with single neuron resolution in the brain of an animal that is free to move around,” said Andrew Leifer, co-author of the study.
“Large-scale neural recordings in freely moving animals are important for understanding how patterns of activity across a population of neurons generates animal behavior,” Study reads.
For the study, researchers have developed an instrument that detects calcium in brain cells as they communicate with one another. Then, they made worm’s brain cells to produce a fluorescent protein that lit up when it comes in contact with calcium.
Researchers used a special type of microscope to record both worm’s movements and neural activity together at the same time. With 3D software, they kept the worm within the field of view of a series of cameras.
This technique could also lead to a better understanding of how human brains work. In the human nervous system, there can be billions of cells. The simpler nervous system of the worm provided researchers a unique opportunity to see how an animal brain plains its behavior. It could reveal information about how neurons work together and can be applied to more complex organisms as well.
“One reason we were successful was that we choose to work with a very simple organism. It would be immensely more difficult to perform whole brain-recordings in humans. The technology needed to perform similar recordings in humans is many years away,” said Leifer.
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“By studying how the brain works in a simple animal like a worm, however, we hope to gain insights into how collections of neurons work that are universal for all brains, even humans.”