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article imageViewing brain images by new adaptive-optics technology

By Tim Sandle     May 10, 2017 in Science
Scientists from Purdue University have developed a new adaptive-optics technology designed for brain research. The method, described as “multi-pupil adaptive optics”, helps with research into brain function.
The technology works by an advanced optics system capturing high-resolution time-lapse images. The pictures are of functioning brain cells, and the idea is that studying subtly changing images can provide new insights into how the brain works. Of particular interest is how brain cells contribute to the study of brain activity.
The technology is based on specially adapted deformable mirrors. The mirrors change shape so they can counteract the distortion caused as light shines through biological tissue. Also part of the device is a "prism array", which consists of individual segments. The segments produce separate images that relate to different parts of a microscope's field of view and the imaging overcomes distortions that occur when a person or computer attempts to look at different regions of the brain at the same time. This happens because cells and tissues have different indexes of light refraction. Because there are many differences, light traveling through cells produces blurred images. The new method overcomes this problem.
The video below gives more information about the new technology:
Speaking to, lead researcher Professor Meng Cui stated why a new approach was needed in order to comprehend the complexity of the brain: “We are looking at huge numbers of neurons, so the number of data points you can measure per second is 20 million, 30 million."
To get to grips with the neural processes high throughput is necessary. This is so that millions of neurons can be measured simultaneously. In trials the multi-pupil adaptive optics were used to examine microglia. These cells are located throughout the brain and spinal cord, and they carry out a key function: scavenging the central nervous system for plaques, damaged neurons, and infectious agents. In addition, these cells are key in aiding a person recover from a stroke, so understanding more about microglial cells is of medical importance.
The experiments involving time-lapse images of microglial cells were made in mice deploying a 3-by-3 prism array consisting of a total of nine segments.
The research findings and development of the new method are discussed in the journal Nature Methods. The research paper is “Large-field-of-view imaging by multi-pupil adaptive optics.”
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