New research method reveals high-density information storage in the brain

Jo!hn johnhkm at
Wed Oct 6 20:52:52 EST 1999

New research method reveals high-density information storage in the brain
Using a new method of infrared-guided laser stimulation, researchers at the
Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich/Germany have discovered that
information can be stored in the brain with very high spatial density on the
surface of every single neuron (Science 1 October 1999).

The new method was developed by Hans-Ulrich Dodt from the Max Planck
Institute of Psychiatry. In the past, he had developed a method to visualize
nerve cells in the depth of small pieces of rat brain. To achieve this, Dodt
used a microscope and infrared light instead of normal light. In his new
method, so-called "infrared-guided laser stimulation", he coupled now a
highly precise UV-laser with his infrared microscope aiming with the laser
beam at neurons to be investigated. The method allows the stimulation of
selected target points on single neurons with a spatial precision of 10 m m.

A research team at the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry applied the new
method to investigate the so-called "long-term depression" (LTD), a very
important molecular mechanism in the brain. Actually, mechanisms like
long-term depression and long-term potentiation (LTP) are regarded by many
researchers as the basis for memory formation in the brain. It has been
controversially debated how precise the underlying modifications of the
neuronal membrane can be and where these modifications take place. The Max
Planck researchers have discovered that these modifications are spatially
highly restricted. Thus, information can probably be stored with very high
density on the surface of neurons. During the experiments, it became
apparent that a modification of the "receptor", the postsynaptic neuron, is
all what is needed to understand the mechanism of long-term potentiation.
Therefore, modifications of the amount of neurotransmitter that is released
during LTD can be neglected.

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