As enigmatic as it seemed for the last 200 years, the human brain will soon reveal all its secrets. A team of scientists from Princeton has come up with an ingenious technique which makes one capable of seeing, first-hand, how neurons communicate with each other. Worm’s neural pathway was captured on tape as the team managed to keep tabs on nearly 302 individual neurons.
Starting from the premise that mathematical and computer models are not enough in order to see how our brain works, the medical team from Princeton manage to piece together an apparatus which is capable of seeing inside the brain of a worm.
Caenorhabditis Elegans was the study subject used for the unusual experiment. The scientists used the 1-millimeter long nematode because of its simple nervous system. According to their statements, the worm’s brain encompasses a total number of 302 neurons.
So, how was this feat achieved? In order to trace the activity of the brain cells, the team had to discover the best path to follow. Calcium channels seemed to be the best option in this case. And so, the sluggish worms were injected with a special calcium indicator. The indicator would show the team where the electrical signal originates and where it is transmitted.
Using the method, and the indicator’s capacity to give up a glow, the scientists managed to see the neurons in action. This sounds mighty good on paper, but how about a visual representation of this process?
The Princeton team managed to pull that off using a state-of-the-art electronic microscope. By using this optical device, they were able to come up with a 3-D representation of the electrical signal as it travels between several neurons.
According to the team, this is the first time anyone has seen electrical activity in action on a free-moving organism. To further test out their method, the medical researchers made the worm perform several actions, like crawling back and forth. This simple mechanical action revealed that no more than 77 neurons need to work together in order to achieve movement.
Worm’s neural pathway was captured on tape after a team of scientists from Princeton managed to trace Caenorhabditis Elegans neuron activity with a calcium indicator.
Although the experiment was deemed a success in terms of brain mapping technology, the team is yet far from developing a method capable of mapping the electrical activity inside the human brain. That’s due to the fact that the human brain contains billion of nervous cells, each of them regulating certain body activities.