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  • Super-Resolution Microscopy of the Synaptic Active Zone

    At the presynaptic active zone (AZ) a variety of specialized proteins are assembled to complex architectures, which set the basis for speed, precision and plasticity of synaptic transmission. Recently, super-resolution microscopy (SRM) techniques have begun to enter the neurosciences. These approaches combine high spatial resolution with the molecular specificity of fluorescence microscopy. Here, we discuss how SRM techniques can be used to obtain information on the organization of AZ proteins.
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  • The Relationship Between Membrane Potential and Calcium Dynamics in Glucose-Stimulated Beta Cell Syncytium in Acute Mouse Pancreas Tissue Slices

    Oscillatory electrical activity is regarded as a hallmark of the pancreatic beta cell glucose-dependent excitability pattern. Electrophysiologically recorded membrane potential oscillations in beta cells are associated with in-phase oscillatory cytosolic calcium activity ([Ca2+]i) measured with fluorescent probes. Recent high spatial and temporal resolution confocal imaging revealed that glucose stimulation of beta cells in intact islets within acute tissue slices produces a [Ca2+]i change with initial transient phase followed by a plateau phase with highly synchronized [Ca2+]i oscillations.
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  • Patch Clamp Recordings from Embryonic Zebrafish Mauthner Cells

    Mauthner cells (M-cells) are large reticulospinal neurons located in the hindbrain of teleost fish. They are key neurons involved in a characteristic behavior known as the C-start or escape response that occurs when the organism perceives a threat. The M-cell has been extensively studied in adult goldfish where it has been shown to receive a wide range of excitatory, inhibitory and neuromodulatory signals. We have been examining M-cell activity in embryonic zebrafish in order to study aspects of synaptic development in a vertebrate preparation. In the late 1990s Ali and colleagues developed a preparation for patch clamp recording from M-cells in zebrafish embryos, in which the CNS was largely intact.
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  • The Patch-Clamp Technique

    Especially in neuroscience, the physiology of ion channels has always been a major topic of interest. The development of the patch-clamp technique in the late 1970s has given electrophysiologists new prospects. It allows high-resolution current recordings not only of whole cells, but also of excised cellular patches. Even single-channel opening events can be investigated. However, with its complex technical, physical and biological background, the need for highly sensitive equipment and the huge amount of skills required of the experimenter, electrophysiology is still one of the most challenging methods in daily laboratory work.
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  • Neuroscience and Microscopy

    Neurobiology, the science of nerves and the brain, has mainly been driven forward in the last 200 years by microscopic investigations. The structures of cellular and subcellular structures, interaction and the three-dimensional assembly of neurons were made visible by various microscopy techniques. The optical microscope is also a necessary tool for visualizing micropipettes in electrophysiological measurements. Thirdly, many types of functional imaging are performed by means of optical microscopy.
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  • Mapping Billions of Synapses with Microscopy and Mathematics

    A combination of widefield imaging techniques and image segmentation analysis enable researchers to map learning-induced functional changes in individual synapses throughout the hippocampus.
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  • Sniffing Out the Secrets of Social Behavior

    Yet we are only just beginning to understand the complexities and functional differences of the sense of smell in mammals. Prof. Marc Spehr, head of the Department of Chemosensation at RWTH Aachen University since 2009, explains his findings on the neuronal mechanisms of olfactory perception and signal processing using the mouse model. He and his team are trying to find out how substances for social interaction are perceived and how this perception generates a specific type of behavior.
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  • New Standard in Electrophysiology and Deep Tissue Imaging

    The function of nerve and muscle cells relies on ionic currents flowing through ion channels. These ion channels play a major role in cell physiology. One way to investigate ion channels is to use patch clamping. This method allows investigation of ion channels in detail and recording of the electric activity of different types of cells, mainly excitable cells like neurons, muscle fibres or beta cells of the pancreas. The patch clamping technique was developed by Erwin Neher and Bert Sakmann in the 1970s and 80s to study individual ion channels in living cells. In 1991 they received the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine for their work. Today the patch clamping technique is one of the most important methods in the field of electrophysiology.
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