It weighs less than candy and takes up no more than a snail’s shell, but the “Miniscope”, a tiny microscope developed at the University of California (UCLA), can help us visualize the brain or even Alzheimer’s, epilepsy or autism. Can help unravel mysteries.

UCLA researchers just received a grant four million dollars The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the main US medical research agency, set out to refine and manufacture new versions of its “miniscopes”, designed years ago and which have already been released from laboratories over the past decade to more than half a thousand. has been used in. Worldwide.

Now their goal is to design and assemble the two new prototypes, which the university specifies, among other advances, will allow scientists to “look more deeply” into the brain.

“These are important tools that could be transformative for any neuroscientific question that requires observing the activity of large populations of brain cells in freely behaving animals,” says Dr. Peman Golshani, a professor at UCLA. Is.”

One of the great advantages of a small microscope is its size, so small that it fits snugly in the palm of a hand. The device weighs less than four grams and measures 2.54 centimeters in height. It is small enough that it can fit and assemble into a base plate implanted in the top of an animal’s head. data on their neural activity, The collected material is then sent to a computer via a short cable.

The fact that researchers can handle tools with this wide level of flexibility allows them to collect data on brain functioning in contexts that open up a world of possibilities, such as the interaction of one animal with others. community with.

“Whereas previously neural activity could only be observed with very large and heavy microscopes that had to be fixed in place, the ‘miniscope’ makes it possible to study brain function in animals so that they can explore and help their environment.” are uncover new insights On Social Behavior, Memory, and Neurological Diseases”, UCLA details

Researchers can use it to study neural activity in healthy animals or analyze how their brains behave in different contexts. One of its most relevant advantages is that it can be used with mouse models and delve into the genesis and treatment of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, epilepsy or autism.

As in previous editions, UCLA researchers plan to share information gathered during their work so that other teams can build and operate their “miniscopes.” NIH-funded model will provide High resolution and field of view compared to its predecessors and will make it possible to analyze the structure of brain connections.