Light on the mind
This image originally appeared as part of Northwestern's Scientific Images Contest. The contest and subsequent exhibitions are organized by Science in Society, the university's research center for science education and public engagement. Further information and opportunities to participate are available on their website. Prints and canvas editions of these Northwestern research images can also be purchased online (with the small net profit going to science education and outreach programming in the Chicago area).
This video shows a mouse brain thinking (click "download the file" link to see the looped file play in full). Your brain is made up of 100 billion cells called neurons. Neurons send messages to each other here, neurons glow green when they are sending messages. Normally, brain cells don't light up when they communicate. In this video, they contain special proteins engineered to glow when messages are fired off. Using high powered lasers and a trick of quantum physics, researchers can see the cells glow through layers of brain. These researchers study the hippocampus, the part of the brain that helps us navigate. In this video, we're watching a mouse's hippocampus as it runs a virtual-reality maze. This research helps us understand how our brains navigate and form memories.