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Tools for Looking into the Brain: Reading and Writing Patterns in the Brain (with Dr. Adil Khan)

For our third episode in our "Tools for Looking into the Brain" series, we were joined by Dr. Adil Khan, a neuroscientist and group leader at King's College London, to explore reading and writing patterns into the brain. We discussed the principles of two major tools used to examine and manipulate neural activity, namely two-photon microscopy and optogenetics, and explored how they have been applied to answering questions about the neural basis of flexible cognition and behaviour in the Khan lab.

Listen to the episode here

You can find Scientifica's blog post about this episode here.

We spoke about the principles of two major techniques that are frequently used in current experimental neuroscience.

  1. Two-photon microscopy

Two-photon microscopy is a form of imaging that enables better resolution at greater depths. For this reason, it is particularly useful for in vivo imaging, in live intact brains.

Check out this excellent blog post about two-photon microscopy from Scientifica's website:

  1. Optogenetics

Optogenetics involves expressing light-sensitive proteins in specified populations of neurons, which enables those neurons to be either activated or disactivated by shining specific colours/wavelengths of light onto them.

Find out more about optogenetics at this blog post on Scientifica's website:

Applications of the techniques

We spoke about a recent study from the Khan lab that used optogenetic and two-photon imaging techniques to address what the role of a specific subtype of inhibitory neurons, called VIP interneurons, is during a task that requires attentional switching. Find the article "Disinhibition by VIP interneurons is orthogonal to cross-modal attentional modulation in primary visual cortex" by Myers-Joseph et al., 2023 here.

In the study mentioned above, the authors used a task-switching behavioural paradigm in mice, which involves training mice to discriminate between two basic visual stimuli and subsequently training them to forget the visual stimuli and learn to discriminate between two different olfactory/odour stimuli.

The same behavioural paradigm was used in another recent preprint from the Khan lab "Prediction error signals in anterior cingulate cortex drive task-switching" by Cole et al., 2022. Find the preprint here.

This episode is part of a series sponsored by Scientifica, one of the leading producers of state-of-the-art electrophysiology and imaging tools. Scientifica supports researchers around the world to make advancements in neuroscience, cardiology, cancer research, and various other scientific areas. In addition to leading equipment and comprehensive support, Scientifica hosts an extensive Resource Centre dedicated to fostering the sharing of expertise, which is full of a wide range of blogs, videos, case studies, and much more! Be sure to check out their website for more information.


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