3D-printed Transparent Skull “See-Shell” To Advance Brain Research
In order to provide a chance to see the activity of the entire brain surface in real time Scientists at the University of Minnesota have developed a 3D-printed transparent skull implant for mice named as “See-Shell”. This could open up newer avenues of advanced research to understand brain conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
The Researchers explains that- Neural computations occurring simultaneously in multiple cerebral cortical areas are crucial for mediating behaviors. Progress has been initiated in understanding how neural activity in specific cortical areas contributes to behavior. However, there’s a lack of tools that allow simultaneous observation and perturbing activity from cortical areas. They engineered See-Shells which is a digitally designed, morphologically realistic transparent polymer skulls that will allow long-term (>300 days) optical access to 45 mm2 of the dorsal cerebral cortex in the mouse.
Calcium is allowed by see-Shells from multiple, non-contiguous areas across the cortex. Perforated See-Shells enable introducing penetrating probes with cortex imaging concurrently to perturb or record neural activity. The skulls are constructed using common desktop fabrication tools, providing a powerful tool for investigating brain structure and function.”
A Ph.D. and co-author of the study Suhasa Kodandaramaiah stated that- This research will provide them with new information about how the human mind works. He also stated that- The technology allows them to visualize the majority of the cortex in action with unprecedented control and precision while stimulating certain parts of the brain.
In the past, most scientists tried to understand it in detail and have looked at small regions of the brain. However, researchers are now discovering that what happens in one part of the mind likely affects other areas of the brain at exactly the same time.
At the beginning of their Research, the used the See-Shell device examines how mild concussions in one part of the brain affect different parts of the brain as it reorganizes structurally and functionally. Mr. Kodandaramaiah stated that- mouse brains are alike in many respects to human brains and this device opens the door for similar research on mice looking at degenerative brain diseases that affect people like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.
The technology enables the researchers to see global changes for the first time based on Kodandaramaiah. To waxing and waning of neural activity, changes in brightness of the mouse’s brain correspond in a movie produced using the device. Flashes are intervals when the brain becomes active. The investigators are still trying to understand the reason for such global coordinated action and what it means for behavior.
M.D, Ph.D., and co-author of this study and a University of Minnesota and Head of the Department of Neuroscience in the Medical School Professor Timothy J. Ebner stated that- These are research they could not do in humans, but they’re vitally important in our comprehension of how the brain works so we could improve treatments for men and women who experience brain injuries or diseases.
To create the See-Shell, researchers scanned the surface of the mouse skull and then used the digital scans to make an artificial transparent skull that has the same contours as the first skull. With the transparent skull apparatus, the cover of the mouse is replaced during an operation that was precise. The system allows researchers to record brain activity while imaging the brain in real time.
Another advantage to using this device is the mouse’s body didn’t reject the implant, meaning the researchers could study the same mouse brain over several months. Studies in mice over a few months to allow researchers to examine brain aging in a way that could take decades to study in humans.
“This new device allows us to examine the brain activity in the lowest level zooming in on particular neurons while getting a big picture view of a large part of the brain surface as time passes,” Kodandaramaiah stated. “Developing the apparatus and demonstrating that it works is just the beginning of what we will be able to do to advance brain research.”
The study was published in Nature Communications Journal in a paper titled “Cortex-wide neural interfacing via transparent polymer skulls”.