Russian scientists have developed methods that allow you to "Live" to watch how the brain cells in the process of learning and remembering new information. This was told at the conference "Kikoinskie reading" at the Kurchatov Institute Head of the Department of systemogenesis Institute of Normal Physiology RAMS Konstantin Anokhin.
"Neuroscience for the last 20 years has achieved great success," — said Anokhin, referring to the study of the biological basis of consciousness. According to him, the progress in this field was made possible by combining the methods of physics, molecular biology and neuroscience.
Anokhin reminded that the human brain is 70 billion neurons — the same number as the stars in our galaxy, and the number of connections between them reaches 60 trillion. However, in recent years, researchers have begun to understand how the "look" of many processes in the brain.
The scientist said the experiment with fixing electrical impulses in the brain of mice, which were trained to navigate a maze to find food. Researchers have found out how the learning process is formed by a neural network — both are active or that group of cells.
As it turned out, the animal’s brain at rest in an accelerated mode loses re-activation of neurons in those sequences that were observed when the mouse is operated.
"In concise played all of the past behavior of the animal. This only happens when she learns, "- said Anokhin.
"We now know that such outbreaks with the recollection of the past occur during sleep. Dreams are becoming way to play the last individual experience. In addition, we know that animals use it for playing situations of choice "- he added.
Now neuroscience is quite powerful theoretical tool that allows us to interpret the experimental data — this is the theory of functional systems.
According to this theory, says Anokhin, all actions, in particular, the processes of remembering, learning accompanied by the formation of distributed networks of neurons that are synchronized with each other due to the simultaneous excitation. Such networks are formed in the process of learning and experience, they can be modified to disintegrate as remembering and forgetting.
However, the study of such complex systems in the waking brain during cognitive operations, demands, according to Anokhin, fulfilling several conditions.
In particular, scientists need a way to monitor individual neurons. Existing methods for fixing the electrical activity of the brain can distinguish activation domains, which contain dozens or hundreds of cells, a single neuron, they "see" can not.
"In our brain there are about a million neurons located in the temporal lobe, which are selectively activated in response to the image of our Prime Minister. About the same — the president, the same can be activated in response to images of Evstigneeva, Gurchenko hare of "Just you wait!" Or the Eiffel Tower. Thus neighboring cells can be connected to a completely different process. The only way to understand what’s going on — cellular resolution, "- said Anokhin.
In addition, researchers need to see the brain as a whole, and it should be a living, functioning brain.
"Such systems — dynamical systems, folding at the time of the cognitive process — action, thinking — and then disintegrating. Therefore, they can only investigate in conscious organisms in the process of behavior, cognitive performance, "- said Anokhin.
Optics peeks into the brain
According to the scientist, to fulfill all these conditions will optic connection methods, genetics and neuroscience — neyrooptogenetika.
Anokhin told that nerve impulses can not only cause changes in the electrical potential across the membrane of nerve cells, but also engage in the work of the cell nucleus, activating certain genes.
"In the time of the experience of any new experience in a large part of the brain cells are activated by certain genes. This is not just a coincident events-the blockade of (those) gene leads to disruption of long-term memory, "- said Anokhin.
He recalled that in biology is widely used method of fluorescent labels, proteins that can glow when irradiated with light of a specific wavelength. Biologists have learned to attach a gene that produces a fluorescent proteins to target genes, a condition which is necessary to track and then watch how this gene is manifested in the body.
"We can do this reporter construct, connect one of the genes involved in learning, with flyuorstsentnym protein implanting this construct, and make a transgenic animal. And then under a fluorescence microscope, we can see the cells in which the gene of interest is working. We can see it at the time of learning, "- said Anokhin.
To do this it took to make the brain is literally transparent — mouse brain was placed in a drug that has the same refractive index as the cell membrane and some proteins that make the brain is almost or completely transparent.
Furthermore, it was necessary to obtain accurate data on the localization of active neurons. To do this, the brain is translucent very narrow laser beam which excites fluorescence in a very small plane (about 6-10 microns). "We can see the virtual sections and moving the drug in the vertical plane, we can get the three-dimensional reconstruction. This allowed for the first time to see the work of a huge population of cells in the whole brain, "- said Anokhin.
The brain in the "Live"
The only drawback of this method lies in the fact that there is a static picture, said Anonhin. However, added the scientist, now he and his colleagues have developed a technique for observing the living brain.
To do this, the skull is a special hole, where the fiber is fed through a laser beam, which causes fluorescence.
"The essence of this approach is that by using the fiber, we can see in the brain of the animal in vivo fluorescence changes," — said Anokhin.
According to him, the development of such methods in the near future could lead to major breakthroughs in the study of the brain.
"In the coming years we can expect major developments on this front", — concluded the scientist.