Swiss and American researchers are developing a technique of unprecedented precision to visualize and manipulate the action of neurotransmitters.
The transmission of information in the brain goes through neurotransmitter molecules which diffuse themselves through the junction zone between two nerve cells called the synapse. In some cases, these molecules can spread into the tissue, thus inundating different types of nerve cells, it is called “neuromodulation”. To better understand the impact of neuromodulators on cerebral circuits and behavior, it is necessary to be able to identify the stimulated neurons and then to follow their activity.
A collaboration between a team from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the Max Planck Institute for Neurosciences (MPFI) in Florida has solved this problem with a new technique called iTango, which makes it possible to control in real time the cells subjected to the neuromodulation. iTango is based on an innovative gene expression system based on light, it will allow scientists to better understand the mechanisms of control of the brain circuits involved, for example, in addiction or in certain psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. Results are published in Nature Methods. Read More »