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Live brain development observed

1st August 2006

A new imaging system has given fresh hope for the understanding and treatment of neurological diseases.

Researchers at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory have been able to watch how genes shape the brain and see it all in action, thanks to a new imaging system that they devised for the study.

The research, published in the journal Cell, allowed observation of proteins in the live brain.

'Two-photon microscopy' was also used, which can give imaging of live tissue up to one millimetre deep.

The images are so accurate that the scientists could see proteins within individual neurons within the brain.

"This work represents a technological breakthrough," said the study's lead author Kuan Hong Wang.

"This is the first study that demonstrates the ability to directly visualize the molecular activity of individual neurons in the brain of live animals at a single-cell resolution and to observe the changes in the activity in the same neurons in response to the changes of the environment on a daily basis for a week."

It is hoped that the new technique will give huge advantages to those studying neurological processes and development, potentially leading to many drugs and treatments for neurological diseases and mental disorders.