High power optical fiber provides multisite photometry in the brain

A team of scientists from Italy and the U.S. presents a light technique based on fiber optic technology to catch and detect neural activity in the brain. The optical fiber technique enables signals from different brain regions to be gathered simultaneously through the use of a tapered fiber optic probe.

To be more precise, fiber optic technology is based on putting fluorescent molecules into specific nerve cells to control their electric activity and measure the level of neurotransmitters. Thus, scientists apply a tapered optical fiber that allows catching light from single neurons and provides light collection over an extent of up to 2 mm of tissue and multisite photometry along the taper.

It should be noted that the light-sensing fiber optic probe is inserted inside the striatum, a part of the brain involved in planning movements. The fiber probe helps to detect the dopamine release (a neurotransmitter that takes part in motor control). Moreover, dopamine is involved in the development of several mental disorders, for instance, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, and depression.

Herewith, the optical fiber has been already tested and demonstrates great results. The fiber optic probe catches successfully the neural activity in specific subregions of the striatum engaged in the release of dopamine during specific behaviors. Thus, “using a single tapered optical fiber, the researchers simultaneously observe distinct dopamine transients in the dorsal and ventral striatum in freely moving mice performing a simple behavioral conditioning task”.

Now fiber optic technology makes it possible to understand how nerve signals move in time and space and to measure the concentration of specific neurotransmitters during specific actions. It should be noted that the collection volumes from the tapered optical fibers can be produced in both shape and size by microstructuring the nonplanar surface of the taper, to optically aim multiple sites not only in the deep brain but potentially in any biological system or organ in which light collection is difficult because of such processes as light scattering and absorption.

The scientists confirm that the presented fiber optic probes are highly promising because optical fibers may “enrich researchers’ methodological repertoire”, as well as become a base for searching for new ways to map connections across various brain parts resulting in an ability that allows developing fiber optic devices to image different brain regions and even treat disorders that happen in the result of functional failures in cells existing in these regions.

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