Creating new brain imaging techniques is one of today's greatest engineering challenges. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Vienna achieved simultaneous functional imaging of all the neurons of the transparent roundworm C. elegans. This technique is the first that can generate 3-D movies of entire brains at the millisecond timescale. Read more in this discovery.
Credit: MIT and University of Vienna
NSF aims to enable scientific understanding of the full complexity of the brain, in action and in context, through targeted, cross-disciplinary investments in research, technology and workforce development. Learn about NSF's cross-foundational activities in brain research, including the BRAIN Initiative, in this special report.
Credit: Deisseroth Lab
The Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS) of the Biological Sciences Directorate supports research aimed at improving understanding of organisms as integrated units of biological organization. The goal is to predict why organisms are structured the way they are, and function as they do.
The BRAIN Initiative is an effort by federal agencies and private partners to support and coordinate research to understand how the human brain works. Understanding the brain means knowing the fundamental principles underlying brain structure and function. The research required to do so will accelerate scientific discovery and innovation, promote advances in technology and bolster U.S. economic competitiveness.
September 22, 2014
CLARITY opens window to brain circuitry, new era for neuroscience
This imaging technology provides unprecedented 3-D views of an intact brain's neural structure and its vast internal connections
The connections between neurons in the brain are involved in everything we do, and no one's pattern is the same. Imagine the medical breakthroughs if we understood more about the brain's circuitry, but a milky opaque tissue that coats much of the human brain has clouded our view--until now.
With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), neuroscientist and psychiatrist Karl Deisseroth and his multidisciplinary team at Stanford University have developed a new imaging technology that essentially makes the brain transparent. They chemically dissolve the opaque tissue in a post-mortem brain, and in place of that tissue, they insert a transparent hydrogel that keeps the brain intact and provides a window into the brainís neural structure and circuitry. They can then generate detailed 3-D images that highlight specific neuronal networks.
With this breakthrough technology, researchers no longer have to slice the brain and disrupt its biochemistry. Deisseroth has named this process "CLARITY." It is a fundamentally new way to see the brain and has been widely hailed as an important advance in whole-brain imaging.
The research in this episode was supported by NSF award #1247950, INSPIRE: Fully-assembled Biology via Light-field Illumination and Intact-tissue Imaging.
Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this material are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.