Three-photon microscopy is an emerging imaging technique that scientists have been perfecting over the last few years. At MIT, this has led to the first ever look into the neural activity of the entire visual cortex of an awake mouse. The researchers were even able to view the neural activity in the subplate below the visual cortex, an area whose functionality is not well understood.
“By optimizing the optical design and other features for parameters for making measurements in the live brain, we were able to actually make novel discoveries that were not possible before,” said Mriganka Sur, one of the MIT scientists involved in the study.
The researchers had specially designed light sources in front of the mice in the study, and turned those on and off while watching the neural activity. The microscopy technique involves quick and low energy bursts of light that can reach deep into the brain without damaging the living cells, while generating a fluorescence that can be detected using special equipment.