An enlightened idea

Technique lights up neurons at work in living animals

A genetic tweak makes it easier to see neurons at work in living, breathing animals. The method, described in the Oct. 18 Neuron, capitalizes on a property of a busy neuron: When the cell fires, calcium ions flood in.

BRIGHT IDEA A new method highlights active neurons (bright green with pink center) in a mouse’s brain. Blue marks the nuclei of all cells. Qian Chen

Using an altered version of the protein GFP that lights up when calcium is present in a mouse’s brain, neuroscientist Guoping Feng of MIT and colleagues could see smell-sensing neurons respond to an odor, and movement neurons light up during walking.

Laura Sanders

Laura Sanders is the neuroscience writer. She holds a Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Southern California.

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