Magazine article Science News

Imaging of Nerve Cell Branches Stirs Debate. (Showing Some Spine)

Magazine article Science News

Imaging of Nerve Cell Branches Stirs Debate. (Showing Some Spine)

Article excerpt

Two research groups have taken unprecedented, high-resolution images of nerve cells inside the brains of live mice--and come to seemingly contradictory views. Resolving their conflict about the stability of cell projections called dendritic spines could illuminate how the adult brain adapts to experience and stores information, say neuroscientists.

The research teams, which both report their work in the Dec. 19/26 Nature, studied different areas of the mouse cortex, the brain's outer layer. The group led by Karel Svoboda, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at Cold Spring Harbor (N.Y.) Laboratory, examined a cortical region that processes sensory information from a mouse's whiskers. The team led by Wen-Biao Gan of New York University School of Medicine investigated cortical cells that respond to visual information.

Both groups worked with mice genetically engineered to incorporate fluorescent proteins into the targeted nerve cells. Svoboda and his colleagues studied the green-glowing cells of their mice by implanting viewing windows in the rodents' skull. Gan's team instead thinned the skulls of their mice until they could image the nerve cells that glowed yellow.

Rafael Yuste of Columbia University, coauthor of a manual on imaging nerve cells, calls the experiments a "tour de force" that will set the stage for many similar studies in live animals.

Over days, weeks, and even months, the neuroscientists recorded images of the same rodent brains, focusing on the nerve cell branches known as dendrites. In particular, the groups studied each dendrite's many stubby projections, or spines. Nerve cells communicate with each other through specialized junctions called synapses, and a dendritic spine provides the receiving end of a synapse, according to many neuroscientists. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.