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March 1st, 2009
IR-absorbing lead selenide particles form the basis of a method for the study of neuronal activation in samples of brain tissues without the need for hard-wired electrodes. The technique instead utilises light-triggered nanostructured semiconductor photoelectrodes to probe activity.
Philip Larimer, Richard Todd Pressler, and Ben Strowbridge of the Department of Neurosciences, at Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland, Ohio, working with Yixin Zhao and Clemens Burda in CWRU's Center for Chemical Dynamics and Nanomaterials Research explain their approach in the current issue of Angewandte Chemie.
Understanding brain function remains one of the great challenges facing science. For example, simply understanding how brain regions process synaptic inputs to generate defined responses is a puzzle.
One particularly promising avenue of research in this area remains the study of the electrical conduction of stimuli by nerve cells, neurons. However, in order to study neuronal circuits in detail, a sharp metal electrode is usually introduced into the living brain or a brain slice to introduce a current. Such a crude approach is too blunt a probe to discern the highly complex activation patterns of natural nerve stimuli. Moreover, this approach causes direct damage to tissue because of unwanted electrochemical side reactions.
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