Researchers at the University of Minnesota have figured out how to open a window into the brains of mice by using a transparent skull implant. It's called the See-Shell.
"What we are trying to do is to see if we can visualize and interact with large parts of the mouse brain surface, called the cortex, over long periods of time," says mechanical engineering professor Suhasa Kodandaramaiah, co-author of a study on the See-Shell that appeared in the journal Nature Communications on Tuesday.
The See-Shell could aid scientists studying human brain conditions like concussions, Alzheimer's and degenerative conditions like Parkinson's disease. "These are studies we couldn't do in humans, but they are extremely important in our understanding of how the brain works so we can improve treatments for people who experience brain injuries or diseases," says neuroscientist Timothy Ebner.
A video released by the university shows a sped-up mouse brain scan as seen through the See-Shell. "Changes in brightness correspond to waxing and waning of neural activity. Subtle flashes are periods when the whole brain suddenly becomes active," the school notes.
The researchers digitally scan a mouse's skull and use the data to create a matching transparent piece using a 3D printer. The skull is then surgically replaced with the See-Shell. The mouse studied by the team did not reject the implant, which allowed them to monitor its brain over several months.
The researchers intend to make the See-Shell commercially available to other researchers.