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Psychological Science
2018 Project Proposal

Development of a miniature fluorescent microscope for imaging calcium dynamics in the brain*

Lori Newman with Hadley Bergstrom and Bojana Zupan (Psychological Science)

In the field of neuroscience, the development of new technological approaches for monitoring cellular activity in real-time is required for unraveling complex relationships between the brain and behavior. A technological approach for visualizing the activity of large populations of cells in the brain is calcium imaging. Calcium is an intracellular messenger that regulates an array of cellular functions, including gene regulation and cellular excitability. Understanding the spatial and temporal characteristics of calcium signaling in populations of cells may shed light on how changes in cellular signaling relates to changes in behavior. The purpose of this URSI project is to develop a standard operating procedure for recording calcium dynamics at cellular resolution in vivo using genetically encoded ultrasensitive calcium sensor proteins (GCaMP6) that specifically targets neurons or astrocytes and an integrated miniaturized wide-field fluorescent microscope. The first stage of this project requires in-house assembly of the high- speed epi-fluorescent microscope components (using the Miniscope.org project) and testing. The second stage of the project requires the surgical delivery of the calcium indicator and mounting of the miniscope baseplate. The third stage of this project requires data collection (behavioral testing), analyses (machine learning) and interpretation. This project is ongoing and is expected to span multiple semesters. Students interested in any particular phase of the projected are encouraged to apply. Students interested in neuroscience, engineering, applied physics, statistics or computer science are encouraged to apply. For an introduction to the technology and its application in modern neuroscience see the paper by Gnosh et al (2011). For design, source-code and relevant information for building the miniscope, see minisocope.org.          

Prerequisites:  Those with either behavioral research experience or large dataset analysis skills are encouraged to apply.        

How should students express their interest in this project?  If interested, please contact me via email (lnewman@vassar.edu) to set up a time to meet and discuss your interest in the project, your previous research experience, as well as the demands of the current project.