NEUROSCIENCE/MICROSCOPY/OPTOGENETICS: New technologies for neuroimaging at Neuroscience 2012

The neurotechnology industry—comprising devices, diagnostics, and drugs targeting the brain and the rest of the nervous system—grew 5.6% in 2011 to $158.6 billion in revenues, reports market research firm NeuroInsights. That growth was evident at the 2012 Society for Neuroscience annual meeting (October 13–17; New Orleans, LA), where a number of companies announced interesting new optical technologies.

Inscopix's new nVista HD miniature microscope for in-vivo brain imaging
Inscopix's new nVista HD miniature microscope for in-vivo brain imaging.

More for microscopy

A miniature, integrated fluorescence microscope called nVista HD made its debut at the event. Developer Inscopix, Inc. (Palo Alto, CA) based the system on technology developed at Stanford University: nVista HD enables streaming of live, high-definition videos of large-scale neural activity in awake, naturally behaving mice.

Molecular Devices (Sunnyvale, CA) showcased version 2.5 of its MetaMorph NX Microscopy Automation and Image Analysis Software, which includes modules for examining neuronal morphology and fiber structures, support for targeted illumination devices, and a high-speed image acquisition mode.

The more traditional microscopy companies also released new systems and capabilities. For instance, Carl Zeiss's Microscopy business group (Jena, Germany) introduced its Lightsheet Z.1, a light-sheet fluorescence microscopy (LSFM) system for imaging dynamic processes in live specimens. The system's illumination principle offers extremely low phototoxicity and integrated incubation to enable imaging over hours or several days or more. Especially with larger organisms, such as fruit fly or zebrafish embryos, the approach provides more information than traditional fluorescence microscopy. And it can generate data from different viewing angles, which can be combined into 3D reconstructions and time-lapse videos.

Olympus (Center Valley, PA) hosted a symposium that highlighted developments in functional imaging and brain mapping at the microscopic level, including the new high-contrast darkfield capability of its VS120 virtual slide microscope system. For both unstained and fluorescent specimens, darkfield facilitates understanding of structure and function, and promises particular usefulness for brain imaging.

Leica Microsystems (Wetzlar, Germany) highlighted its new TCS SP8 prism-based spectral multi-fluorescence confocal system with high-speed scanning up to 428 fps. It offers a large field of view and accelerated Z-stacking, and its optical components are designed to boost contrast and improve viability in live cell imaging.

Nikon Instruments (Melville, NY) announced its third generation Perfect Focus System, consisting of two new models optimized for UV-visible imaging and visible-IR imaging for multiphoton microscopy. The new systems correct for axial drifts and maintain focus at larger distances from the objective; for example, deeper depths in the imaging specimen.

FEI Company (Hillsboro, OR), which a year earlier announced its acquisition of Till Photonics, previewed a correlative light and electron microscopy (CLEM) platform designed to make experiments easier and more efficient with a common user interface, advanced light microscopy modalities, and sample environment options specific to workflow steps.

Andor Technology (Belfast, Ireland) launched the latest addition to its Revolution spinning disk confocal microscopy lineup, the Revolution WD, which promises to empower live-sample imaging with 4x field of view, imaging at low and high power magnification, and greater depth while maintaining high contrast. In addition, it offers a number of photostimulation tools.

For photostimulation

In fact, there were a number of announcements related to photostimulation. For instance, Andor also launched its Mosaic 3, boasting integrated memory for fast pattern switching and ability to control intensity of light across the sample to multiple regions of interest. Meanwhile, Mightex (Toronto, Canada) discussed how its new Polygon400 multiwavelength (UV/VIS/NIR) dynamic spatial illuminator (DSI) produces a programmable pattern of arbitrary shape or size and allows simultaneous illumination patterns of multiple regions up to 4000 frames per second over extended periods.

And Thorlabs (Newton, NJ) and Blackrock Microsystems (Salt Lake City, UT) announced a new partnership that involves incorporating Thorlabs' optical stimulation system into Blackrock's Cerebus, a multichannel system for recording and analyzing animal brain and peripheral-nerve electrical activity. The result, say the partners, is a complete bio-potential recording and optogenetics package to be sold by Blackrock.

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