A team of researchers at Japan’s National Institute of Genetics in Shizuoka Prefecture have recorded what is believed to be the first video of single neurons making their way through the brain – in other words, an actual thought being formed. While the recording is of the brain of a zebrafish, and the thought is no more complicated than ‘hey, this is food,’ it is a breakthrough scientific discovery nonetheless.
The scientists, led by Koichi Kawakami, created a new tool that was specifically designed to detect neuron activity, and have it be lit up by a super-sensitive fluorescent probe. The team focused on activity in the zebrafish’s tectum, a part of the brain where vision is processed. They recorded the animal as it noticed a paramecium nearby, registering it as prey. The resulting pattern of lights corresponds with neural activity across the brain that comes with visual information being processed on the side opposite from the eye that saw movement.
While the research is still in its early phases, Kawakami and his colleagues are hopeful that their discovery could lead to a better understanding of one of the largest mysteries of the brain, its little-understood circuitry. The video of the zebra fish is certainly an impressive display of connections between brain cells and the thoughts that result from visual perceptions.
[via New Scientist]