Topic: Physiology/cell

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Brainbow

Molecular and Cell Biology Neuroscience Physiology Physiology/cell

Brainbow is a process by which individual neurons in the brain can be distinguished from neighboring neurons using fluorescent proteins. By randomly expressing different ratios of red, green, and blue derivatives of green fluorescent protein in individual neurons, it is possible to flag each neuron with a distinctive color. This process has been a major contribution to the field of connectomics, traditionally known as hodology, which is the study of neural connections in the brain.

The technique was originally developed in 2007 by a team led by Jeff W. Lichtman and Joshua R. Sanes, both at Harvard University. The original technique has recently been adapted for use with other model organisms including Drosophila melanogaster, Caenorhabditis elegans, and Arabidopsis thaliana.

While earlier labeling techniques allowed for the mapping of only a few neurons, this new method allows more than 100 differently mapped neurons to be simultaneously and differentially illuminated in this manner. The resulting images can be quite striking and have won awards in science photography competitions.

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