Science Current Events | Science News | Brightsurf.com
 

Virtual reality allows researchers to measure brain activity during behavior at unprecedented resolution

May 10, 2012

Researchers have developed a new technique which allows them to measure brain activity in large populations of nerve cells at the resolution of individual cells. The technique, reported today in the journal Nature, has been developed in zebrafish to represent a simplified model of how brain regions work together to flexibly control behaviour.

Our thoughts and actions are the product of large populations of nerve cells, called neurons, working in harmony, often millions at a time. Measuring brain activity during behaviour at detailed resolution in these groups of cells has proved extremely challenging. Currently, scientists are restricted to measuring their activity in individual brain areas of, for example, moving rats, typically in less than a few hundred neurons.

Dr Misha Ahrens, a Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow based at Harvard University and the University of Cambridge, worked with colleagues to develop a technique which allows neuroscientists to study as many as 2,000 neurons simultaneously, anywhere in the brain of a transparent zebrafish. Their work was funded by the Wellcome Trust and the National Institutes of Health.

Dr Ahrens and colleagues created a virtual environment for zebrafish, which allowed them to measure activity in the neurons as the fish 'moved'. In reality, the zebrafish was paralysed to allow the researchers to image its brain; the fish perceived to 'move' through the virtual environment by activating their motor neuron axons, the cells responsible for generating movement.

Zebrafish are often used as a simple organism to study genetics and characteristics of the nervous system that are conserved in humans . They are genetically modifiable, so by manipulating the fish's genetic make-up, Dr Ahrens and colleagues created a fish in which all neurons contained a particular protein that increases its fluorescence when the cells are active. The fish are transparent and so the team were able to use a laser-scanning microscope, to see activity in any neuron in the brain of the fish, and up to 2,000 neurons simultaneously.

Dr Ahrens explains: "Our behaviour is determined by thousands, possibly millions, of nerve cells working in harmony. The zebrafish performs complex behaviors, with a brain of about 100,000 neurons, almost all of which are accessible to optical recording of neural activity. Our new technique will help us examine how large networks mediate behaviour, while at the same time telling us what each individual cell is doing."

Using the technique, Dr Ahrens and colleagues asked the question: do zebrafish adapt their behaviour in response to changes in their environment? To do this, they manipulated the virtual environment to simulate the fish suddenly becoming more "muscular". This served as a simplified version of what happens when the brain needs to adapt the way it drives behavior, for example, when water temperature changes the efficacy of the muscles, or when the fish gets injured.

Dr Ahrens adds: "The paralyzed fish in the virtual world do indeed adapt their behaviour, by adjusting the amount of impulses the brain sends to the muscles. They also 'remember' this change for a while. Imaging the brain everywhere during this behaviour, we identified certain brain regions that were involved, most notably the cerebellum and related structures. This technique opens the possibility that eventually, the behaviour may be used to gain insights into human motor control and motor control deficits.

"Our own motor control is continuously recalibrating itself in a similar way to the fish's to cope with ever changing conditions of our body and environment, such as when we injure a leg, or if we're walking on a slippery floor or carrying a heavy bag. The zebrafish's behaviour is an ultra-simplified version of this and we have been able to gain some insight into how its brain structures drive behaviour. This might someday help us understand how damage to certain brain regions in humans affects the way in which the brain integrates sensory information to control body movements."

Understanding the brain is one of the Wellcome Trust's five strategic challenges.

Wellcome Trust


Related Brain Activity Current Events and Brain Activity News Articles


'Baby talk' can help songbirds learn their tunes
Adult songbirds modify their vocalizations when singing to juveniles in the same way that humans alter their speech when talking to babies.

Effects of maternal smoking continue long after birth
Early exposure to nicotine can trigger widespread genetic changes that affect formation of connections between brain cells long after birth, a new Yale-led study has found. The finding helps explains why maternal smoking has been linked to behavioral changes such as attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, addiction and conduct disorder.

Mimicking deep sleep brain activity improves memory
It is not surprising that a good night's sleep improves our ability to remember what we learned during the day.

How depression and antidepressant drugs work
New research demonstrates the effectiveness of ketamine to treat depression in a mouse model of the disease and brings together two hypotheses for the cause of depression.

First peek into the brain of a freely walking fruit fly
Researchers at the Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind at the University of California San Diego have developed a technique for imaging brain activity in a freely walking fruit fly.

Evaluating animal threats and human intentions uses common brain network
Assessing whether a fluffy bunny or a giant spider poses a threat to our safety happens automatically.

New data on brain network activity can help in understanding 'cognitive vulnerability' to depression
Neuroimaging studies of interconnected brain networks may provide the "missing links" between behavioral and biological models of cognitive vulnerability to depression, according to a research review in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry.

Study suggests new treatment for seizures
Researchers from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, have discovered a new factor in the escalation of seizures: the synthesis, or generation, of estrogens in the brain.

Neuroscientists discover previously unknown function of cannabinoid receptor
The cannabinoid type 2 receptor - also called "CB2 receptor" - is a special membrane protein. Its function is to receive chemical signals that control cellular activity.

Origin of synaptic pruning process linked to learning, autism and schizophrenia identified
Research led by SUNY Downstate Medical Center has identified a brain receptor that appears to initiate adolescent synaptic pruning, a process believed necessary for learning, but one that appears to go awry in both autism and schizophrenia.
More Brain Activity Current Events and Brain Activity News Articles

Brain Games Kids: Preschool

Brain Games Kids: Preschool
by Editors of Publications International Ltd. (Author), Editors of Brain Games (Editor)


Brain Games for Preschool Kids contains 301 early-learning activities for preschoolers. Colorful illustrations and photography help present the material in a fun and engaging way. Each left-hand page contains one to four questions; each right-hand page supplies answers. The question-and-answer format is complemented by spiral binding that makes it easy to fold the book in half to hide the answers.

The activities address language arts, math, science, social sciences, physical and emotional development, fine arts, and foreign language. Topics include recognizing letters and numbers, phonics, matching, counting, rhyming, colors, and identifying similarities and differences. Categories are scattered throughout the book, and questions progress from easy to hard for a graduated learning...

The Whole-Brain Child Workbook: Practical Exercises, Worksheets and Activities to Nurture Developing Minds

The Whole-Brain Child Workbook: Practical Exercises, Worksheets and Activities to Nurture Developing Minds
by Daniel J Siegel (Author), Tina Payne Bryson (Author)


Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson speak to audiences all over the world about their immensely popular best-sellers, The Whole-Brain Child and No-Drama Discipline. The message Dan and Tina continually receive from their audiences, whether live or virtual, is that people are hungry for the opportunity to take the Whole-Brain ideas and go deeper with them. Thanks to this new workbook, they now can.

The Whole-Brain Child Workbook has a unique, interactive approach that allows readers not only to think more deeply about how the ideas fit their own parenting approach, but also develop specific and practical ways to implement the concepts -- and bring them to life for themselves and for their children.

-Dozens of clear, practical and age-specific exercises and...

Teaching Students to Drive Their Brains: Metacognitive Strategies, Activities, and Lesson Ideas

Teaching Students to Drive Their Brains: Metacognitive Strategies, Activities, and Lesson Ideas
by Donna Wilson (Author), Marcus Conyers (Author)


Research suggests that metacognition is key to higher student achievement, but studies of classroom practice indicate that few students are taught to use metacognition and the supporting cognitive strategies that make learning easier. You can teach metacognition to your students, so why wouldn't you? This book shows you how.Metacognition is a tool that helps students unlock their brain's amazing power and take control of their learning. Educational researchers and professional developers Donna Wilson and Marcus Conyers have been exploring and using the explicit teaching of metacognition for years, and in this book they share a practical way to teach preK–12 students how to drive their brains by promoting the following practices:Adopt an optimistic outlook toward learning,Set goals,...

Brain Quest for Threes, revised 4th edition: 300 Questions and Answers to Get a Smart Start

Brain Quest for Threes, revised 4th edition: 300 Questions and Answers to Get a Smart Start
by Chris Welles Feder (Author), Susan Bishay (Author)


Brain Quest is beloved by kids, trusted by parents, used and recommended by teachers. It’s the curriculum-based, fast-paced, question-and-answer game that challenges kids on the stuff they need to know, when they need to know it. It’s the brand that says “It’s fun to be smart!” And it delivers.

For the fourth edition every deck is thoroughly revised and includes 20 percent new material. The content aligns with national and state standards and is overseen by the Brain Quest Advisory Board, a panel of award-winning educators, each a recent state teacher-of-the-year award winner or a recipient of the prestigious Milken Educator Award. The covers and cards have a refreshed design, giving Brain Quest a cooler, updated look.

My First Brain Quest, revised 4th edition: 350 Questions and Answers to Build Your Toddlers Word Skills

My First Brain Quest, revised 4th edition: 350 Questions and Answers to Build Your Toddlers Word Skills
by Chris Welles Feder (Author), Susan Bishay (Author)


Brain Quest is beloved by kids, trusted by parents, used and recommended by teachers. It’s the curriculum-based, fast-paced, question-and-answer game that challenges kids on the stuff they need to know, when they need to know it. It’s the brand that says “It’s fun to be smart!” And it delivers.

For the fourth edition every deck is thoroughly revised and includes 20 percent new material. The content aligns with national and state standards and is overseen by the Brain Quest Advisory Board, a panel of award-winning educators, each a recent state teacher-of-the-year award winner or a recipient of the prestigious Milken Educator Award. The covers and cards have a refreshed design, giving Brain Quest a cooler, updated look.

Engage the Group, Engage the Brain: 100 Experiential Activities for Addiction Treatment

Engage the Group, Engage the Brain: 100 Experiential Activities for Addiction Treatment
by Kay Colbert (Author), Roxanna Erickson-Klein (Author)


A highly innovative collection of activities for use with groups and individuals in addiction treatment settings. Designed to creatively utilize the mind-body connection, these activities are engaging and fun, linked with evidence-based interventions and drawn on emerging brain research, providing a window into reaching clients who may be resistant to traditional talk therapy.Kay Colbert, LCSW, works in private practice in Dallas, Texas, specializing in adult addiction, mental health, trauma, pain management, anxiety, and women's issues.Roxanna Erickson-Klein, PhD, LPC, works in private practice in Dallas, Texas, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Milton H. Erickson Foundation.

Help Your Preschooler Build a Better Brain: Early Learning Activities for 2-6 Year Old Children

Help Your Preschooler Build a Better Brain: Early Learning Activities for 2-6 Year Old Children
by John Bowman (Author)


If an expensive preschool is not an option, create one at home! Written by an experienced Montessori Teacher, this unique guide has years of fun activities and the information you need to help your child develop strong brain architecture, a positive self-image, and advanced skills in math, reading, and writing – a perfect preparation for success in school. You can do this! From 3-6, a child’s brain is fully engaged in opening new nerve pathways and developing the executive functions like working memory, planning, and multi-tasking ability. We build most of our brain nerve architecture for life by age 6. The early years are when we can make the most powerfully positive difference in a human being's life. All the activities you need are here: Practical Life, Sensorial, Art & Music,...

The Everything Kids' Math Puzzles Book: Brain Teasers, Games, and Activities for Hours of Fun

The Everything Kids' Math Puzzles Book: Brain Teasers, Games, and Activities for Hours of Fun
by Meg Clemens (Author), Sean Clemens (Author), Glenn Clemens (Author)


Stump your friends and family!Who knew that math could be so cool? Crammed with games, puzzles, and trivia, The Everything Kids' Math Puzzles Book puts the fun back into playing with numbers!If you have any fear of math--or are just tired of sitting in a classroom--The Everything Kids' Math Puzzles Book provides hours of entertainment. You'll get so caught up in the activities, you won't even know you're learning!Inside, you'll be able to:Decode hidden messages using Roman numeralsConnect the dots using simple addition and subtractionLearn to create magic number squaresUse division to answer musical riddlesMatch the profession to numerical license plates

Adult Activity Book: An Adult Activity Book Featuring Coloring, Sudoku, Word Search And Dot-To-Dot

Adult Activity Book: An Adult Activity Book Featuring Coloring, Sudoku, Word Search And Dot-To-Dot
by Adult Activity Book (Author)


This adult activity book consists of over 30 stress relieving activities such as coloring, Sudoku, dot-to-dot, word scrambles, and word searches. These exercises will not only help with relaxation, but also improve critical thinking skills and workout the brain. Activities in this book vary in skill level from introductory to complex making it the perfect all around adult activity book!

Brain Gym: Simple Activities for Whole Brain Learning

Brain Gym: Simple Activities for Whole Brain Learning
by Paul E. Dennison (Author), Gail E. Dennison (Author), Gail E. Dennison (Illustrator)


This small book has been translated into 20-some languages. It offers drawings of the 26 Brain Gym activities with simple descriptions of how to do them, written in a simple story form that children can understand. Parents, teachers, and learners seeking more in-depth descriptions and variations for the 26 activities find these in Brain Gym: Teacher s Edition by the same authors.

© 2016 BrightSurf.com