April 9 - Scientists at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Virginia are demonstrating that answers to questions about human brain function begin with creatures far more humble. Through advanced microscopy, they have revealed the brain activity of a zebrafish in unprecedented detail, paving the way for technology that might one day provide information about human brain disorders. Rob Muir reports.
When a zebra fish senses the presence of food over a new side to smell it's -- fives into action. The neurons in this fish have been engineered with a fluorescent Jane. The trick is small explosions of life whenever calcium ions produced by thoughts are activated inside the brain cell. And as the fish thinks a state of the not microscope developed by scientists at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Sends pulses of laser light through it's Bryant. A camera records the -- activity from four different angles. At a hundred frames a second. The result is a 3-D views of the fish -- at work. We Simpson in imaging basically the entire activity. At the singers sound level so it can also then. Tried to correlate information in different parts of the brain see how different -- might talk to each other. Physicist and biologist Philip -- developed the technology. Ultimately he and his research partner and hero scientist Misha currents. Would like to see how the human brain functions in finding -- but the technology doesn't yet exist. -- microscope however is that the cutting image. The special. Featured a special concept in this system instead became imagery creepy. Complex march past sample -- -- dimensional audio. And you can actually look at that morning from lots of different perspectives at the same time. Those multiple perspectives or sheets. A combined to buy a computer program to form a single moving three dimensional image. Because they're. Everything but that she is essentially invisible we can capture what happens and in this heat that's being excited very accurately. And through -- that report your activities which and then essentially see and what what he's -- rounds are doing at the time that we're filming them. And the technology is not limited to recording the activity of zebra fish Brian's. Here in a compilation of millions of images recorded over twenty hours. A cluster of cells evolves into the elongated body of the fruit fly embryo with muscles forming moments before it becomes a fully formed lava. Want to -- an experiment through to this microscope and that is not possible with a different. Imaging system that's consistent up to this point. Is to really follow basically all of themselves. In I'm developing embryo so we start as early as possible so you know ideally back to -- stage the very beginning. Off to -- mental process and and we tried to follow these cells. Who lost to development for the entire face of every Genesis -- go to south and -- how to move holiday. Intact how to divide in order them to build this complex structure. Not a complex. Monticello organist with many different types of tissues in one incident quite impressive functionality. To want to capture that entire process as it happens. You know what the entire gaming system. The imaging technology is improving. For Brian mapping transparent zebra fish are -- deal models and provide crucial information. -- -- aren't says he's hoping -- mobile. We see his signature of your activity but we're not yet seeing the very fine structure that. In the future we're hoping to speed up the system so that we can see individuals like that we can really tough. Exactly when when your rounds of the samples to another room. The ultimate goal is to study -- on communication in human brains. And better understand the nature of neural disorders like alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. So more effective treatments can be developed. It's a long way off but through scientists like -- -- and Misha Barnes the ground work is already being alive.