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 Optogenetic/PET-scan technique for mapping brain activity in moving rats

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Date posted: 14/04/2013

A technique that uses light-activated proteins to stimulate particular brain cells and positron emission tomography (PET) scans to trace their effects throughout the entire brain of fully-awake, moving animals has been developed by U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory

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 of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) Laboratory of Neuroimaging at Brookhaven Lab. Thanos is also 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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