‘Cleverly designed' MRI sensors detect dopamine, offering a high-resolution look at what’s happening inside the brain.

by Anne Trafton

For neuroscientists, one of the best ways to study brain activity is with a scanning technique called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which reveals blood flow in the brain.

However, although fMRI is a powerful tool for identifying brain regions that are active during a particular task, it offers only an indirect view of what’s happening. Measuring a more direct indicator of neural activity, such as concentrations of neurotransmitters (brain chemicals that carry messages between neurons) could be much more valuable.

by Simon Hadlington

UK researchers have discovered a new use for metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) - as potential lighting devices.

MOFs consist of inorganic nodes connected by organic linker molecules to form three-dimensional molecular cages. So far MOFs have attracted interest as a way to store gases such as hydrogen or carbon dioxide, or as novel catalytic materials.

Now, Anthony Cheetham from the University of Cambridge and colleagues have shown that MOFs can also act as a novel source of white light.

by Michael Patrick Rutter

Marrying high performance optics with microfluidics

Harvard engineers have successfully created a silicone rubber stick-on sheet containing dozens of miniature, powerful lenses, bring them one step closer to putting the capacity of a large laboratory into a micro-sized package.

by Jennifer Marcus

Study of vesicular stomatitis virus leads to model of viral assembly process

Vesicular stomatitis virus, or VSV, has long been a model system for studying and understanding the life cycle of negative-strand RNA viruses, which include viruses that cause influenza, measles and rabies.

by Anne Trafton

MIT scientists are making computers smart enough to see the connections between the brain's neurons

C. elegans, a tiny worm about a millimeter long, doesn’t have much of a brain, but it has a nervous system — one that comprises 302 nerve cells, or neurons, to be exact. In the 1970s, a team of researchers at Cambridge University decided to create a complete “wiring diagram” of how each of those neurons are connected to one another. Such wiring diagrams have recently been christened “connectomes,” drawing on their similarity to the genome, the total DNA sequence of an organism. The C. elegans connectome, reported in 1986, took more than a dozen years of tedious labor to find.

Antonio Hardan, MDby Erin Digitale

Autism researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine are recruiting twins for an investigation of the role of genetics in shaping the autistic brain.

“We’re doing a twin study to try to sort the impact of genetics on brain abnormalities in autism from the impact of the environment,” said lead scientist Antonio Hardan, MD, who is a child psychiatrist at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital and associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford. Hardan’s team will use magnetic resonance imaging to scan the brains of 120 pairs of twins, some with autism and some without, to look for gene-brain associations.

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