Understanding the dynamics of neuronal networks to gain insight into the brain’s information processing. By creating novel sensors of neural function, we can detect the electrical and chemical states of neurons and neural ensembles that can be exploited for the creation of novel drug therapies.
A quantitative understanding of the dynamics of neuron networks is fundamental to gaining insight into information processing in the brain.
The Sensors and Imaging Laboratory will bring together neuroscientists, physicists and engineers to capitalise on recent breakthroughs in quantum and nano engineering to create novel sensors of neural function. These sensors will detect the electrical and chemical states of neurons and neural ensembles with high temporal and spatial resolution that we can exploit for the creation of novel drug therapies.
To find out more about the research undertaken at this laboratory, please contact:
Quantum diamond neuron imaging system
The diamond based detection system will consist of a single crystal ultra-pure diamond membrane substrate containing a sub-surface layer of nitrogen-vacancy (NV) defect centres, each of which is an atomic-sized magnetic field sensor that can be read-out optically by a wide-field CCD. The ensemble of NV centres provides high sensitivity to the magnetic field fluctuations resulting directly from the transmembrane potentials generated by the neural activity at millisecond time-scales, and the fall-off of the magnetic field provides micron spatial resolution. The data obtained will also allow both the projected morphology and function connectivity to be determined. The realisation of this detection system using available technology would represent a significant step forward in measuring and understanding the dynamics of whole-scale neural networks and provide a valuable tool for neuroscience and neuroengineering.
Nanowire neuron sensors
Calcium ion and membrane potential imaging together with patch clamp electrophysiology have been mainstays for the investigation of function in health and disease and also the methods of choice for ion channels and Gprotein coupled receptor drug discovery. However, the inherent high degree of invasiveness of patch clamp technology at the cellular level represents a significant challenge to scale-up for application and discovery in a range of areas. Recent advances in nanowire technology have enabled the convergence of biological and engineering/materials sciences and open up new opportunities for the development of the next generation of biosensors for high throughput screening. We will develop a program that amalgamates molecular neuroscience with nanowire physics and leading edge manufacturing methods to establish a biological, theoretical and practical demonstration of technology that will drive the development of novel biosensors.
Opsins are a protein class that act as light gated ion channels and are set to revolutionise the study of neurons and neuronal networks. Two classes exist, the channelrhodpsins that are light gated cation channels that serve to excite neurons and the halorhodopsins that are light gated chloride pumps that serve to inhibit neurons. By exploiting state of the art molecular biological methods we are able selectively express these molecules into discrete classes of neurons to achieve control of interneurons, pyramidal neurons in various brain regions. One technical challenge is the ability to deliver the gating light pulse with required temporal and spatial control. We are currently exploring and developing technology for the creation of implantable and individually addressable devices to generate light pulses by external control to be able to more fully exploit the potential of the opsins in neurobiology. Several engineering challenges need to be met including energisation, miniaturisation, control, biocompatibility and delivery.
- Liam Hall (PhD)
- Liam McGuinness (PhD)
L. McGuinness, Y. Yan, A. Stacey, D. Simpson, L. Hall, D. Maclaurin, S. Prawer, P. Mulvaney, J. Wrachtrup, F. Caruso, R. Scholten and L. Hollenberg, ‘Quantum measurement and tracking of fluorescent nanodiamonds inside living cells’, Nature Nanotechnology 6 358 (2011)
F. Dolde, H. Fedder, M. Doherty, T. Nöbauer, F. Rempp, G. Balasubramanian, T. Wolf, F. Reinhard, L. Hollenberg, F. Jelezko and J. Wrachtrup, ‘Sensing electric fields using single diamond spins’, Nature Physics 7 459 (2011)
L. Hall, C. Hill, J. Cole, B. Stadler, F. Caruso, P. Mulvaney, J. Wrachtrup, L. Hollenberg, ‘Monitoring ion-channel function in real time through quantum decoherence’, PNAS 107 18777 (2010)
L. Hall, C. Hill, J. Cole, L. Hollenberg, ‘Ultrasensitive diamond magnetometry using optimal dynamic decoupling’, Physical Review B 82 045208 (2010)
G. Lansbergen, R. Rahman, C. Wellard, I. Woo, J. Caro, N. Collaert, S. Biesemans, G. Klimeck, L. Hollenberg, S. Rogge, ‘Gate-induced quantum-confinement transition of a single dopant atom in a silicon FinFET’, Nature Physics 4 656 (2008)