By using genetic modification and a florescent-sensitive probe, Japanese scientists captured a zebrafish's thought in real-time.
A group of scientists from Japan’s National Institute of Genetics announced the mind-boggling achievement in a paper published today in Current Biology. By inserting a gene into a zebrafish larvae—often used in research because its entire body is transparent—and using probe that detects florescence, they were able to capture the fish’s mental reaction to a swimming paramecium in real time.
The key to the technology is a special gene known as GCaMP that reacts to the presence of calcium ions by increasing in florescence. Since neuron activity in the brain involves rapid increases in concentrations of calcium ions, insertion of the gene causes the particular areas in a zebrafish’s brain that are activated to glow brightly. By using a probe sensitive to florescence, the scientists were able to monitor the locations of the fish’s brain that were activated ay any given moment—and thus, capture the fish’s thought as it “swam” around the brain.
Zebrafish embryos and larvae are often used in research because they are largely translucent. Image via Wikimedia Commons/Adam Amsterdam
The particular thought captured in the video above occurred after a paramecium (a single-celled organism that the fish considers a food source) was released into the fish’s environment. The scientists know that the thought is the fish’s direct response to the moving paramecium because, as an initial part of the experiment, they identified the particular neurons in the fish’s brain that respond to movement and direction.
Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald