The brain of a mammal is one of the most complex things in the universe. But studying brains has become easier thanks to some complicated, hi-tech equipment.
In this ScienCentral Web Extra video we take a visit to the Tonegawa Lab at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory. to see their two-photon microscope and electrophysiology lab.
Tools of the Trade
The two-photon microscope has two lasers that intersect in the sample of brain tissue. They excite photons of light which, when amplified, reveal intricate structures.
The researchers take snapshots at a range of depths, then combine them to create a layered three dimensional image that reveals features of the spines that protrude from brain cells.
Research associate Inbal Israely describes what we're seeing. "So a neuron is like a tree and it has branches, and the branches get finer as you go farther out along the tree. And on the tree you can imagine there are almost like little thorns – they're spines – and the spines are basically the sites of connections between two neurons."