Image of the Week: Neural Networks in a Mouse
Courtesy of C. Geoffrey Lau
Brain cells connect and communicate in complex patterns called neural networks. Altering the building blocks of these networks affects the flow of information through them. Recent research suggests disruptions in these systems could be common among some psychiatric disorders, such as autism and schizophrenia.
Neuroscientists use several advanced techniques to map brain circuits and discover how cells respond when that network activity is drastically altered by artificially changing one element. This helps researchers determine the importance of its role in the system.
In a recent study published in The Journal of Neuroscience, scientists at Harvard University focused on how the presence of the enzyme GAD67 — an enzyme important for production of the nerve cell communication chemical GABA — affects neural function. They used a combination of electrophysiology, fluorescent protein labeling, and genetics to examine the effects varying levels of GAD67 have in mice.
The above image shows a coronal slice of mouse hippocampus. Green fluorescent protein (GFP), a molecule that emits green light when illuminated with blue or ultraviolet light, marks all interneurons expressing GAD67. The protein parvalbumin is the red stain and cell nuclei are labeled with the fluorescent stain DAPI in blue.