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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 brain?s 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.

Miles O'Brien, Science Nation Correspondent
Ann Kellan, Science Nation Producer

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.