New tool offers snapshots of neuron activity

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FLARE technique can reveal which cells respond during different tasks.

Many cognitive processes, such as decision-making, take place within seconds or minutes. Neuroscientists have longed to capture neuron activity during such tasks, but that dream has remained elusive — until now.

A team of MIT and Stanford University researchers has developed a way to label neurons when they become active, essentially providing a snapshot of their activity at a moment in time. This approach could offer significant new insights into neuron function by offering greater temporal precision than current cell-labeling techniques, which capture activity across time windows of hours or days.

“A thought or a cognitive function usually lasts 30 seconds or a minute. That’s the range of what we’re hoping to be able to capture,” says Kay Tye, an assistant professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT, a member of the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, and one of the senior authors of the study, which appears in Nature Biotechnology on June 26. View Original Article»