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New Technology Allows Scientists To Watch and Activate Brain Cells in Mice

A slowed-down video of a mouse (right) and a subset of its brain (left) being simultaneously imaged and activated (white dots at the top indicate triggered activity; transient white light to the left indicate an activated brain cell).

DURHAM, NC - A new technology developed at Duke allows scientists to observe brain activity in freely moving mice and simultaneously activate brain cells with a flick of a switch.

Technically called a “one-photon endoscope”, the new rodent head gear combines two major neuroscience technologies into one lightweight and affordable “hat”: 1) calcium imagining, which, through genetic tweaking, makes certain brain cells light up every time they’re activated, and 2) optogenetics, wherein a light sensor is genetically embedded on the surface of brain cells, making them triggerable by highly precise lasers.

The new endoscope was published today in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering, and is the brainchild of DIBS member and Duke psychology & neuroscience professor Henry Yin PhD and lead author Jinyong (Jeffrey) Zhang PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in the Yin lab.

While Zhang and Yin’s endoscope is currently made in-house at Duke, they’ve recently applied for a patent in preparation for commercializing the new hardware. According to Yin, commercialization will help make the endoscopes more reliable, higher quality, and even smaller and lighter (which is important since mice only weigh as much as a golf ball).

CITATION: “A One-Photon Endoscope For Simultaneous Patterned Optogenetic Stimulation And Calcium Imaging In Freely Behaving Mice,” Jinyong Zhang, Ryan N. Hughes, Namsoo Kim, Isabella P. Fallon, Konstantin Bakhurin, Jiwon Kim, Francesco Paolo Ulloa Severino, Henry H. Yin. Nature Biomedical Engineering, August 15, 2022. DOI: 10.1038/s41551-022-00920-3