Researchers develop new method for mapping how the parts of the brain “speak” to each other

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A research team led by the Cleveland Clinic and Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) has developed a new method to map how parts of the brain “talk” to each other, which is important for understanding behavioral changes in patients with neurological diseases.

Diseases like Alzheimer’s disease affect how patients communicate and behave, their relationships and well-being. Cleveland Clinic’s Hod Dana, PhD, is collaborating with Jacob Raber, PhD, an OHSU behavioral neuroscientist, to map the electrical pathways that connect and coordinate the parts of the brain needed to accomplish various tasks.

Effects on behavior and personality in Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders are caused by changes in brain function. If we understand exactly how changes occur, we can determine how to slow the process or stop it. Recording the patterns of brain activity that underlie behavioral changes is the first step in bridging the gap.”

Hod Dana, PhD, Cleveland Clinic

Brain waves, signal pathways that cells called neurons use to make a decision, form a memory or complete a task. To study how brain waves affect behavior and decision-making, researchers observe that neurons turn “on” and “off” across organs in different situations. Current technologies are still unable to map the entire brain while identifying single cells. CaMPARI images can be captured during behavior, highlighting active neurons as red and inactive neurons as green. After the test is over, the red and green markers stay lit for several days. This allows researchers to capture a series of images to track brain activity by mapping where red appears inside the brain.

The team recently released the results Nature communication used a calcium sensor system called CaMPARI (Calcium-Modulated Photoactivatable Ratiometric Integrator) to map brain activity in preclinical models while completing cognitive tasks. Dr. Dana and Raber plan to use CaMPARI in preclinical work to see how Alzheimer’s-related genes affect our neuron signaling through our brains in learning and memory.

Dr. Dana and Raber said they hope to take what they learn from their results to develop tests and interventions that can improve patients’ quality of life, providing better treatment options.

“We now have the ability to study the relationship between brain activation and cognitive performance at an unprecedented level,” said Dr. Rabe’s “The first step is to develop strategies to reverse these changes and improve cognitive performance in people affected by neurological conditions. The future of behavioral and cognitive neuroscience looks bright.”

This work was funded by NIH R21AG065914 and U01NS123658.


Journal Reference:

Das, A., etc. (2023). Large-scale recording of neuronal activity in freely-moving rats at cellular resolution. Nature communication.

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