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One way to figure out how your brain works … still an enormous realm of this universe that remains to be understood … is quite simple in principle: watch brain cells grow and connect and just do their thing, and try to learn something from it.
Of course, mounting a video camera into your skull isn’t a pleasant idea. So, there are techniques that allow brain cells, called neurons, to be grown in other environments like glass dishes or silicon wafers. Coaxing the cells to actually survive in this foreign way is something of a black art, but when done successfully scientists have a great way to directly watch neurons do their thing.
An astounding recent advancement in imaging technology has pushed these movie makers to the next level with incredibly high effective frame rates. Just like a strobe light at a party make the dance floor look like a slow flashing of images before your hazy eyes, advanced, high-speed lasers can be pulsed very quickly to illuminate a field of view.
Jeff Lichtman, at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO, has taken advantage of this new technology to watch neuron development with such a high resolution. Scientists in other fields, such as chemistry, biology, and physics are also exploring important applications.
Read more about this exciting technology…
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