WASHINGTON, April 2 (Xinhua) -- American researchers developed a 3D-printed transparent skull and implanted it into mice, offering a way to watch its activity of the entire brain surface in real time.
The study published on Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications described the device called See-Shell that may provide new insight for human brain conditions such as concussions, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
"This technology allows us to see most of the cortex in action with unprecedented control and precision while stimulating certain parts of the brain," said the study's coauthor Suhasa Kodandaramaiah from University of Minnesota.
With the transparent skull, the neuroscientists can take a global picture of the brain since they came to recognize that what happens in one part of the brain likely affects other parts of the brain at the same time.
The researchers digitally scanned the surface of the mouse skull and then used the digital scans to create an artificial transparent skull that has the same contours as the original skull. By a precise surgery, the top of the mouse skull was replaced with the 3D-printed transparent skull device, according to the study.
In one test, they used the device to see how mild concussions in one part of the brain affect other parts of the brain.
In a video produced using See-Skull, changes in brightness of the mouse's brain correspond to waxing and waning of neural activity. Subtle flashes are periods when the whole brain suddenly becomes active.
The researchers have yet figured out the reason for such global coordinated activity and what it means for behavior.
Also, the mouse's body did not reject the implant, which means that the researchers were able to study the same mouse brain over several months.
"This new device allows us to look at the brain activity at the smallest level zooming in on specific neurons while getting a big picture view of a large part of the brain surface over time," said Kodandaramaiah.