(Image credit: Stanford University) (Image credit: Stanford University)

Stanford researchers develop new tool for watching and controlling neural activity


An interdisciplinary team of scientists has created a new molecular tool to help us better understand the cellular basis of behavior.

A new molecular probe from Stanford University could help reveal how our brains think and remember. This tool, called Fast Light and Calcium-Regulated Expression or FLiCRE (pronounced “flicker”), can be sent inside any cell to perform a variety of research tasks, including tagging, recording and controlling cellular functions.

“One goal was to map how brain regions are connected to each other in living animals, which is a really hard problem,” said Christina Kim, a postdoctoral scholar in genetics at Stanford and co-lead author of the paper. “The beauty of FLiCRE is that we can pulse and activate neurons in one region and then record all of the connected downstream neurons. It is a really cool way to look at long-range brain activity connections.”

Visible Legacy Comment

This is an example of multidisciplinary research that is worth a look by Tech Scouts seeking to find technologies to map and control neural activity. The Stanford team combines chemistry, genetics, biology and neuroscience, and many specialties within those disciplines. The new molecular probe "FLiCRE" enables fast light- and calcium-gated molecular labeling of active neurons, states their paper, and combining FLiCRE with optogenetic tagging identifies functionally coupled circuits. Thus a FLiCRE-driven opsin reveals the behavioral function of activated neurons, the research says. Recent related technology from Dr. Ting's lab is available through the Stanford Office of Technology Licensing. Please explore the map of the research ecosystem below.