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A live stream from the brain

Collage with two talking neurons

Picture: / cosmin4000

For a long time, neuroscientists have dreamed about observing nerve cells live in the brain. Now they can – with extreme precision – thanks to the work of Arthur Konnerth and his research group at Technical University of Munich (TUM). Their discoveries have thrown up a few surprises – and pave the way for new therapies to treat dementia disorders like Alzheimer’s.

Revolutionary breakthrough in brain research

Medical scientist Arthur Konnerth and his research group are able to observe live and in color what happens in individual nerve cells of the brain and as thousands of these neurons communicate with each other. The scientists use laser beams to create microscopic 3D images of deep layers of tissue, and tiny glass pipettes to measure how nerve cells transmit signals.

This has allowed Konnerth and his team to gain fundamental insights into the workings of the brain – and into what happens with degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Today, their methods are used in laboratories around the world. In 2015, Konnerth and three other scientists received the “Brain Prize”, the highest accolade awarded in neuroscience. Their methods have revolutionized the field of brain research, having brought us the first detailed look inside the living brain.

“The major problem with treating psychiatric disorders, in particular, is that we don’t have a detailed picture of the way the brain works under normal conditions. So we are trying to repair a system we don’t fully understand in the first place. That is why therapies to date are often not sufficiently effective and have too many side effects.”

Prof. Arthur Konnerth

Arthur Konnerth, Friedrich Schiedel Endowed Chair of Neuroscience at TUM

Picture: Andreas Heddergott / TUM

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