A team of neuroscientists and bioengineers have created a miniature, fiber-optic microscope designed to peer deeply inside a living brain. The researchers published details of their revolutionary microscope in the latest issue of Optics Letters journal.
The laser-scanning microscope, a prototype which will be further refined, uses fiber-optics and a tiny electrowetting lens. Compared to other small, focusing lenses, it's fast and not sensitive to motion. This allows it to reliably focus on living tissue.
At the same time, the lens allows a rapid shifting of focus by applying electricity across two different liquids, which actually changes the curvature of lens.
The microscope, about half an inch in diameter, can be directly mounted onto the head of a mouse. A thin, fiber optic cord will allow the animal to freely roam while scientists look inside its brain and monitor reactions to certain stimuli. That means parts of the living brain like the amygdala, which had been virtually off-limits to microscopes, will soon be seen in real-time, high-resolution, 3-D images.
"The ability to see beneath the surface of the brain offers new, powerful ways to study brain function," the researchers said. "It will help us understand brain disease and formulate new treatments."
Other possibilities include:
- Screening pharmaceuticals targeted to specific brain disorders.
- Allowing neurosurgeons to image small brain areas like those targeted in the treatment of Parkinson's disease.
- Conducting optical, in situ, biopsies for diagnosis of brain tumors.
- Examining the connection between neural damage and controlling prosthetic limbs.
Based on material originally posted by University of Colorado Denver.