PET scans monitor brain circuits activated by light, opening new window to brain diseases
April 10, 2013
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” Building on their history of innovative brain-imaging techniques, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory and collaborators have developed a new way to use light and chemistry to map brain activity in fully-awake, moving animals. The technique employs light-activated proteins to stimulate particular brain cells and positron emission tomography (PET) scans to trace the effects of that site-specific stimulation throughout the entire brain. As described in a paper published online today in the Journal of Neuroscience, the method will allow researchers to map exactly which downstream neurological pathways are activated or deactivated by stimulation of targeted brain regions, and how that brain activity correlates with particular behaviors and/or disease conditions.
‘This technique gives us a new way to look at the function of specific brain cells and map which brain circuits are active in a wide range of neuropsychiatric diseases — from depression to Parkinson’s disease, neurodegenerative disorders, and drug addiction — and also to monitor the effects of various treatments,’ said the paper’s lead author, Panayotis (Peter) Thanos, a neuroscientist and director of the Behavioral Neuropharmacology and Neuroimaging Section — part of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) Laboratory of Neuroimaging at Brookhaven Lab — and a professor at Stony Brook University. ‘Because the animals are awake and able to move during stimulation, we can also directly study how their behavior correlates with brain activity,’ he said.”
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One of ten national laboratories overseen and primarily funded by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Brookhaven National Laboratory conducts research in the physical, biomedical, and environmental sciences, as well as in energy technologies and national security. Brookhaven Lab also builds and operates major scientific facilities available to university, industry and government researchers. The Laboratory’s almost 3,000 scientists, engineers, and support staff are joined each year by more than 5,000 visiting researchers from around the world.Brookhaven is operated and managed for DOE’s Office of Science by Brookhaven Science Associates, a limited-liability company founded by Stony Brook University, the largest academic user of Laboratory facilities, and Battelle, a nonprofit, applied science and technology organization.
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