Unique mini-microscope provides insight into complex brain functions

College of Science and Engineering, April 5, 2021

Researchers from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities College of Science and Engineering and Medical School have developed a unique head-mounted mini-microscope device that allows them to image complex brain functions of freely moving mice in real time over a period of more than 300 days.

The device, known as the mini-MScope, offers an important new tool for studying how neural activity from multiple regions of the outer part of the brain, called the cortex, contribute to behavior, cognition, and perception. The groundbreaking study provides new insight into fundamental research that could improve human brain conditions such as concussions, autism, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease, as well as better understanding the brain’s role in addiction.

The research was published today in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Methods. The study authors will also present their research at the virtual 2021 OSA Biophotonics Congress: Optics in the Life on Thursday, April 15.

“This device enables us to image most of the mouse’s brain during free and unrestrained behaviors, whereas previous mesoscale imaging was usually done in immobile mice using devices like the MRI or two photon microscopes,” said MnDRIVE faculty Suhasa Kodandaramaiah, the senior author of the study and University of Minnesota Benjamin Mayhugh Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering in the College of Science and Engineering.

“This new device allows us to understand how different areas of the brain interact during complex behaviors where multiple areas of the brain are working together simultaneously,” he added. This opens up research into understanding how connectivity changes in diseased states, traumatic brain injury, or addiction.”

Left eye stimulus of mouse during brain research