Skepticism, Medicine and Science News

Detecting Single Action Potentials

A team of scientists have managed to optically detect single action potentials in the brains of living animals.

The standard method of measuring action potentials has for a while been using microelectrodes, but this has limitations in that you can only measure a limited number of neurons, and not larger parts of brain tissue. The new method uses fluorescent proteins that react to the calcium ions that flow into the neurons at some stages during the action potential, specifically, according to the article, the action potentials that are used transmitt signals between neurons. Calcium will then react with two engineered proteins, CFP and YFP. YFP will become yellow-fluorescent, and CFP will become less cyan-fluorescent than it normally is, and this change in combined fluorescence can be optically detected using a two-photon microscope. This way they can see which neurons communicate with each other in pretty large parts of the brain compared to what we used to be able to do. There is one draw back though, and that is that the method cannot record action potentials occurring faster then 1 hz.  But still, pretty cool, and can lead to more knowledge about memory formation and new insights into the pathophysiology of several neurodegenerative diseases. 

Oh, and here’s a picture:

And a link to the original article.


October 7, 2008 - Posted by | Medicine | , , ,

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