IMAGE OF AN ADULT FLY BRAIN:
Courtesy of Diane O'Dowd
O'Dowd's team measured neuronal activity from the central brain region, which is flanked on either side by the visual lobes and eyes (red).
Rachel Wilson and Glenn Turner, postdoctoral researchers in the lab of Gilles Laurent at California Institute of Technology, published a paper in
PICKING OUT BRAINS
Victor Huaiyu Gu, a microsurgeon in his native China and currently a postdoc in the laboratory of
O'Dowd has moved on from her original work in cultured cells to record from whole brains surgically removed from adult flies.3 At the UCLA Learning and Memory Symposium in June of 2003, when she announced that she was recording from cells as small as 1.5 microns, there were audible gasps in the audience. But O'Dowd points to work in equally small mammalian dendrites as her own inspiration. "The size of individual neurons wasn't the barrier. Electrophysiologists overcame the technical limitations of recording from small cells 10 years before. The barrier was the size of the organism."
O'Dowd, who will detail her approach in an upcoming paper on synaptic transmission in memory mutants, says that her biggest challenge was to minimize disruption to the neurons. "We can now take the whole brain out and put it in a recording chamber, a preparation in between a slice and an intact animal," she says. With the connections between neurons largely intact, it is possible to assess synaptic transmission at the level of single cells in a functioning network.
Griffith adds that such work can be combined with functional genomics data to help researchers better understand
- Karen Heyman