To understand how the brain processes information, creates and retrieves memories, and makes decisions it is necessary to record the activity of thousands of brain cells simultaneously. New small and light-weight microscopes have been developed that can be carried on the heads of laboratory mice and rats. These microscopes take advantage of new probes that sense calcium levels and flash bright when a brain cell becomes active. The Neuronex Neurotechnology Hub has built new miniature microscopes that not only sense light but can also directly record the electrical activity of the large numbers of cells deep in the brain. This combination of electrical and optical recordings gives scientists the new ability to read out how large groups of brain cells and brain regions work together as the brain senses, learns, plans and executes actions. The Neuronex Neurotechnology Hub will also create new computer systems that can analyze these activity patterns extremely quickly (within small fractions of a second). This rapid feedback system will allow investigators to rapidly probe how the activity of specific groups of brain cells is linked to each behavior. Finally, the Hub will build and test a new miniature microscope called a "light field miniature microscope". This version of the microscope will allow investigators to make 3-D movies of brain activity, greatly improving their view of the large network of brain cells. All these technologies will be openly shared with neuroscience community through a website (miniscope.org), such that each laboratory can build each of these devices themselves at very low cost. The Hub will hold workshops to teach scientists how to build and use the various devices. Finally the hub will reach out to the broader community by holding classes for K-12 and college students, and demonstrating how these devices can give us a view of brain function.
This Neurotechnology Hub will develop and share next-generation miniaturized in vivo sensing devices that integrate optical and electrophysiological recording from hundreds or thousands of neurons in behaving animals. These devices will be coupled with energy-efficient computing hardware for real-time signal processing and closed-loop feedback capabilities. The Hub will also create light field miniaturized microscopes that will allow three dimensional optical recordings of network activity in freely behaving animals. Last, the Hub will manufacture and distribute custom made, 3 dimensional silicon microprobes for large scale electrophysiological recordings. Making these devices widely available for neuroscience research and teaching will have significant broader impacts, by accelerating discovery and broadening outreach. The devices and techniques will be distributed widely to a large community of researchers, as previously done with the open-source miniaturized microscope developed by the PIs (the website at miniscope.org already has >2500 registered users and >250 labs using our microscope), as well as with silicon microprobes (>100 devices have been shared with users). Hence, the Hub will have a broad impact upon neuroscience research, facilitating many future advances in our understanding of the neural basis for emotion, cognition, and behavior, with a high potential to catalyze major new discoveries. The PIs will establish an outreach program through partnership with the Minority Access to Research Careers program at UCLA, as well as the UCLA Center for Excellence in Engineering and Diversity (CEED), to involve highly diversified high school and undergraduate students in this research. This NeuroTechnology Hub award is funded by the Division of Emerging Frontiers within the Directorate for Biological Sciences as part of the BRAIN Initiative and NSF's Understanding the Brain activities.