Researchers at the University of Melbourne / Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health are developing high resolution optical microscopy and data processing techniques to enable mapping of the state of disease in whole brains.
The glass brain approach involves clearing the tissue of absorbing materials and refractive index matching to remove scatter, leaving the tissue transparent. Labelling the neurons within the tissue with fluorescent markers allows optical mapping of the myriad connections within the neural circuitry, a field known as connectomics.
The Epilepsy research team led by Professor Steve Petrou is studying mechanisms underlying genetic epilepsy in a variety of experimental models. Ongoing projects focus both on the functional changes related to brain hyperexcitability, as well as looking deep into the epileptic brain to observe morphological differences.
A combination of high performance imaging optics, laser illumination and low noise detectors, allows identification of individual neurons.
High resolution imaging entails multiple TeraBytes of imaging data, which requires efficient, fast and accurate processing to reveal the underlying physical structure. Tracing the connections, is then simply matter of “joining the dots” in 3D.