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Optogenetics captures neuronal transmission in live mammalian brain

Neurons, the cells of the nervous system, communicate by transmitting chemical signals to each other through junctions called synapses. This “synaptic transmission” is critical for the brain and the spinal cord to quickly process the huge amount of incoming stimuli and generate outgoing signals. However, studying synaptic transmission in living animals is very difficult, and researchers have to use artificial conditions that don’t capture the real-life environment of neurons. Now, EPFL scientists have observed and measured synaptic transmission in a live animal for the first time, using a new approach that combines genetics with the physics of light. Their breakthrough work is published in Neuron.

synaptically connected neurons
This is a reconstruction of a pair of synaptically connected neurons.
Image credit: Aurélie Pala/EPFL


Source

Pala A, Petersen CCH. In Vivo Measurement of Cell-Type-Specific Synaptic Connectivity and Synaptic Transmission in Layer 2/3 Mouse Barrel Cortex. Neuron (2015) DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2014.11.025

Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale De Lausanne