Neurolucida & Stereo Investigator Help Uncover Cerebellar Granule Cells’ Role in Muscle Memory

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Learning a new dance routine or how to ride a bike is possible because of Cerebellar Granule Cells (GCs) according to Galliano and colleagues in The Netherlands. To find out more about the role of these abundant brain cells, and why we have so many of them, the scientists silenced most of the GCs in a group of mutant mice. They found the rodents could balance and run as well as they ever did, but when it came to learning new activities involving motor function, the mice had a harder time.

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Michigan Scientists Analyze Brain Cells Born During Puberty With Neurolucida

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What does it take to survive that tumultuous time called adolescence? Good friends, exercise, and new brain cells.

Scientists at Michigan State University found evidence of neurogenesis in the brains of adolescent hamsters, according to a study published last month in PNAS. The new cells, which became integrated into neural circuits in adulthood, were discovered in the amygdala and connected limbic regions – areas associated with social learning and mating behavior.

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Stanford Scientists Render Mouse Brain Transparent, Offering New Possibilities For 3D Analysis

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The importance of studying the brain in three dimentions is something we understand at MBF Bioscience. Every day scientists around the world use our products to reconstruct neurons and analyze brain cells in 3D. That’s why we’re excited to hear about the new possibilities for whole brain analysis coming out of Dr. Karl Deisseroth’s lab at Stanford University.

A press release issued last week describes a whole-organ imaging process called CLARITY that made a postmortem whole mouse brain transparent.

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Scientists Use Neurolucida in Study Describing New Cell Population in Juvenile CA3 Hippocampus

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Courtesy of Thomas Marissal, INMED (France)

There’s a lot to be said for being in the right place at the right time. For a neuron, emerging at a certain place within the brain destines it for a particular function. A new study posits that, for a group of cells in the hippocampus, it’s not only where a neuron is born, but also when it is born, that defines the specific roles it will play. The study, conducted by researchers at the Mediterranean Institute of Neurobiology (INMED, France) and affiliated institutions, identifies a new population of cells in the hippocampus.

The cells identified are “a sub-population of early-generated glutamatergic neurons that impacts network dynamics when stimulated in the juvenile hippocampus,” according to the paper.

“These cells first operate as assemblies, in the developing hippocampus, and later become powerful single units capable of triggering network synchronization in the absence of fast GABAergic transmission,” Marissal et al. say.

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Scientists in Japan Identify Two Brain Circuits Involved in Image Recognition; Neurolucida Plays Part

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A monkey spots a mango and part of its brain lights up. The action takes place in the inferior temporal cortex, part of the brain that’s essential to object recognition. Using retrograde tracing and anatomical imaging, scientists at the National Institute of Neuroscience, and the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Japan identified two interwoven, yet distinct, systems within the region’s complex circuitry.

“Our anatomical findings provide evidence for a recurrent network of at least two parallel systems,” the authors say in their paper published last December in Scientific Reports.

One system may send information about an object’s visual characteristics rapidly from one part of the inferotemporal cortex to the other, while the second system might work on a more local level, possibly helping to “compute multipart shape configurations,” the authors hypothesize.

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UVA Scientists Use Neurolucida in Study Identifying Two New Circuits in Rat Neocortex

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Revving engines, blasting sirens, the drummer next door. Despite the myriad sensory stimuli going on around us at any given moment, humans have the ability to stay focused on the task at hand. This skill is due to a part of the brain known as the neocortex, a six-layer structure whose intricate wiring is largely a mystery. But researchers at the University of Virginia just took a big step toward a broader understanding of how this region works. They discovered two never-before-identified circuits in the rat sensorimotor cortex that help explain how the brain filters information.

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Neurolucida Helps Scientists Map Rett Syndrome’s Brain Dysfunction in Mouse Model

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At first, all appears normal with the infant’s development. But one day, around her first birthday, she stops making eye contact, her babbling comes to an end, she wrings her hands, and holds her breath. The child will likely survive into adulthood, but with Rett syndrome, she will lead a life with severe disabilities.

The symptoms of this autism-related disorder are complex, and treatments are not available. At the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, in Cleveland, Dr. David Katz and his team of neuroscientists are researching the rare genetic disorder, which affects one in 10,000 mostly female children. Their recent study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, describes a map of brain dysfunction in a mouse model of Rett syndrome, as well as a promising treatment with the drug ketamine.

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Scientists Map Diaphragm’s Motor Nerve and Arteriolar Networks With Neurolucida

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Image adapted from “Neurovascular proximity in the diaphragm muscle of adult mice,” published with permission from Dr. S. Segal

A 3D model of a mouse diaphragm appears on the monitor. Blood vessels branch out from entry points around the muscle’s periphery, engaging in a graceful choreography with the nerve fibers that radiate from its center.

Could these two networks work together to ensure healthy blood and oxygen flow to the muscle? Or do they exist independently of each other, house mates living side by side within the confines of the diaphragm? Dr. Diego Correa and Dr. Steven Segal set out to test the hypothesis that the motor innervation and blood supply of the diaphragm muscle are physically associated.

“We used Neurolucida to map entire arteriolar networks together with entire motor nerve networks of the diaphragm muscle in adult mice,” explained Dr. Segal in an email.

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Neuroscientists in Germany Outline Protocol for Best Accuracy in Neuron Reconstruction, including Use of Neurolucida

biocytinNo two neurons are exactly alike. Structure dictates function, so for scientists to fully understand the way different types of neurons work, they must first get to know their forms.

Scientists at the Institute for Neuroscience and Medicine at the Research Center Jülich in Jülich, Germany use Neurolucida to perform neuron reconstruction, the most effective method for studying neuron morphology.

In their paper “Improved biocytin labeling and neuronal 3D reconstruction,” published last year in Nature Protocols, the German team describes a distinct series of steps, which must be carried out before a truly accurate model of a neuron can be created. From brain dissection and slice preparation to fixation, staining, embedding, and 3D reconstruction, the authors clearly lay out the process.

In detailing their protocol, the team took into consideration common issues that occur with the embedding and labeling of neuronal tissue such as shrinkage, distortion, and fading. Biocytin labeling, they say, is superior to other methods because of the “extremely durable and strong staining” it achieves. According to them, the labeling method also allows for tissue to be re-examined “to test a new scientific hypothesis or to verify the findings in a different context.”

In one section of the protocol, entitled “Suggestions for 3D, light-microscopic reconstructions of neurons,” the authors describe how to perform 3D reconstructions of biocytin labeled neurons with Neurolucida. “This software allows manual reconstructions of neurons in all three dimensions and generates reconstruction data files in the Neurolucida format for a quantitative morphological analysis,” they explain.

Read “Improved biocytin labeling and neuronal 3D reconstruction” at nature.com.

(Note that the image above is for illustration purposes only and was not actually used in the study described in this post.)

Marx, M., Günter, R. H., Hucko, W., Radnikow, G., & Feldmeyer, D. (2012). Improved biocytin labeling and neuronal 3D reconstruction. Nature protocols,7(2), 394-407.

Gene Therapy May Be Answer to Effective Parkinson’s Treatment; Neurolucida Plays Role in Study

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Neurotrophic factors may be the key to the cure for Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s, and other neurodegenerative disorders. Scientists have known this for over twenty years. But the question continues to loom – how does one safely and effectively deliver the neurotrophic factors to the damaged neurons? Dr. Raymond Bartus and his team at Ceregene, a biotechnology company in San Diego, have developed an innovative approach that may be the answer.

Rather than focusing on conventional methods of neurotrophic factor delivery, which have always been extremely difficult and resulted in undesirable side effects, the Ceregene researchers took a different approach. They turned to gene therapy. Instead of delivering the restorative protein to the targeted sites in the brain, the Ceregene researchers developed a way to deliver only the gene for the protein. Once in place, the gene induces local cells to make the protein on site.

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