Two-photon microscopy inventors awarded valuable neuroscience prize

The world's most valuable neuroscience prize, The Brain Prize (worth $1.08 million [€1 million]), has been awarded to four scientists—Winfried Denk, Arthur Konnerth, Karel Svoboda, and David Tank—for the invention and development of two-photon microscopy, a transformative tool in brain research. It combines advanced techniques from physics and biology to allow scientists to examine the finest structures of the brain in real time.

Using two-photon microscopy, researchers are able to examine the function of individual nerve cells with high precision, especially how nerve cells communicate with each other in networks. This is a huge step forward in the understanding of the physical mechanisms of the human brain and in the understanding of how the brain's networks process information. Furthermore, researchers have been able to follow how connections between nerve cells are established in the developing brain.

It has led to identification of signaling pathways that control communication between nerve cells and provide the basis for memory, and it has enabled the study of nerve cell activity in those networks that controls vision, hearing, and movement.

Denk was the driving force behind the invention of two-photon microscopy. With Tank and Svoboda, he used the technique as an innovative tool to visualize activity at the level of the neurons' fundamental signaling units, the "dendritic spines." Konnerth built on this invention to simultaneously monitor the activity in thousands of synaptic connections in living animals, and Svoboda went on to use two-photon microscopy to map the changes that occur in the brain's network when animals learn new skills.

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