New 3-D Imaging Technology Promises Breakthroughs in Brain Research

Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Scientific Council Member and NARSAD Grantee, Karl Deisseroth, M.D., Ph.D., led a team at Stanford in developing a new experimental method they are calling “CLARITY,” that enables researchers for the first time to obtain high-resolution three-dimensional imagery of the brain. The new method, as reported today in Nature, renders the brain essentially transparent, making it possible to see in detail its complex fine wiring and essential features underpinning the functioning of the brain while also offering a global perspective of brain structure.

Prior to CLARITY, creating a 3-D image of the brain required carving its tissue into hundreds or thousands of hair-thin slices, scanning images of the slices in microscopic detail, and then painstakingly realigning the sections. Now a 3-D view of all the complex circuitry in the brain is possible while all of the important structures of the brain remain intact and in place (neurons, axons, dendrites, synapses, proteins, nucleic acids, etc.). By replacing the brain’s fat with a clear gel, CLARITY turns the opaque and impenetrable brain transparent and permeable. The hydrogel also importantly holds the brain’s anatomy intact and because it is permeable, the brain can be stained to localize proteins, neurotransmitters and genes at a high resolution (as in video below).

–Brain and Behavior Research Foundation

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