Mice Finally Get That Microscope Hat They’ve Been Wanting

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Scientists use mice for all kinds of fun things, from injecting old mice with young mouse blood to training them to sniff for bombs, but when doing research, it’s often very difficult to see what’s actually going on in a mouse’s brain. A new microscope actually mounts to a mouse’s head like a hat, allowing the mouse to freely move around while the scientists try to figure out how it tastes umami flavor, or whatever.

Created by neuroscientists at Stanford University, this new device is a miniature fluorescent microscope so tiny and light–less than two grams–it can be mounted on a mouse’s head. That will allow scientists to measure a mouse’s brain function in a totally new way, while it moves, but that’s not its only advantage. The new microscope is also extremely accurate, according to Technology Review–it can measure the activity of up to 200 brain cells, which is more than traditional microscopes, which also have the problem of requiring the mouse to be immobile.

Even better, the new microscope can apparently be constructed of very inexpensive parts. The first prototype of the microscope cost almost $50,000, but the researchers are confident that they can bring that price down–way down. It uses parts that are easily mass-produced, for one thing, and could be used for all kinds of different animals, not just mice. The study was published in this week’s issue of Nature Methods. It’s all part of the never-ending quest to better visualize what’s going on inside a mouse’s adorable head.

Technology Review