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Action. Here’s the brain movie

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Action.  Here’s the brain movie

For the first time, brain activity was translated into images, sounds and colors. In other words, a film useful for interpreting what happens in a mouse’s brain when it performs certain activities. This feat was made possible by a team of researchers from Columbia University in a study published in the journal Plos One. This is a very important step forward that allows complex data obtained through neuroimaging to be integrated in a detailed manner.

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“Recent technological advances have made it possible to record multiple components of waking brain activity in real time,” he explains Sergio Martinoia, head of the Neurotechnologies laboratory at the Policlinico San Martino in Genoa, full professor at the University of Genoa, as well as coordinator of Mnesys, an Italian mega-project dedicated to neuroscience and neuropharmacology. “For example, scientists can now observe what happens in a mouse’s brain when it performs specific behaviors or receives a certain stimulus. However, this type of research – he continues – produces large amounts of data that can be difficult to observe as a whole for obtain detailed information on the biological mechanisms underlying brain activity patterns. The technique developed by Columbia researchers offers the opportunity to observe all the data collected in a single representation”

Imaging translated into violin sounds

Previous research has shown that some brain imaging data can be translated into “songs,” that is, into audible representations. Following this approach, Columbia researchers have developed a flexible toolkit that enables the translation of different types of brain imaging data – and related video recordings of laboratory animal behavior – into audiovisual representations.

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How do children learn words? The secret revealed by artificial intelligence by Valentina Arcovio 07 February 2024 The researchers then demonstrated the feasibility of the new technique in three different experimental contexts, showing how audiovisual representations can be prepared with data from various brain imaging approaches. The researchers thus created a film of the brain activity of a mouse while it ran, highlighting changes in cerebral blood flow. The neuronal data were represented with piano music playing in time with peaks of brain activity: the loudness of each note indicated the magnitude of the activity, and its pitch indicated the location in the brain where that activity occurred . Meanwhile, the blood flow data was represented by violin music. The sounds of the piano and violin, played in real time, clearly showed the relationship between neuronal activity and blood flow. By watching the video of the monitored mouse together, viewers can understand what patterns of brain activity correspond to each different behavior. Memories of a trauma: after war or bereavement everyone reacts differently by Viola Rita 02 February 2024 “Listening and observing representations of data relating to brain activity is an engaging experience, in tune with our ability to recognize and interpret patterns” , underlines Martinoia. “It is more difficult for our brains to observe and focus on both time-varying brain activity data and behavioral video at the same time: our eyes would be forced to look from one side to the other to see things happening together. Typically you need to continually play clips over and over again to understand what happened at a particular time. But having an audiovisual representation of the data makes it much easier to see and hear when things happen at exactly the same time.” .

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The benefit of looking at large data sets

This approach does not replace quantitative analysis of neuroimaging data, but it could help scientists examine large data sets for patterns that might otherwise go unnoticed and merit further analysis.

The desire of American researchers to explore new tools to shed light on the still unsolved mysteries of the brain is the same that drives the over 500 Italian neuroscientists who are part of the MNESYS research project which aims to develop innovative methods for the study of brain mechanisms and of the “hiccups” that can occur and cause pathologies, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autism and so on. “This is a massive joint effort, involving universities, research centers and companies, with the aim of shedding light on the complexity of the brain and its activity, leading us to the development of new risk prediction and diagnostic tools, as well as personalized treatments against the numerous pathologies that affect our nervous system”, concludes Martinoia.

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