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New wearable scanner can observe rat brains while they learn

By John Published: March 17, 2011

The invention of modern brain scanning technology has enabled neuroscientists to observe living brains in action, but the scanners require the subject to lie flat on their backs in big, bulky machines. Technology Review (MIT) reports the development of a miniature scanner so small and light a rat can wear it and scamper around naturally. That will allow neuroscientists to track the flow of chemicals such as dopamine while the rat learns new ways to get food rewards.

A tiny wearable scanner has been used to track chemical activity in the brains of unrestrained animals for the first time. By revealing neurological circuitry as the subjects perform normal tasks, researchers say, the technology could greatly broaden the understanding of learning, addiction, depression, and other conditions.

The device was designed to be used with ratsthe main animal model used by behavioral neuroscientists. But the researchers who developed the device, at Brookhaven National Laboratory, say it would be straightforward to engineer a similar device for people.


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