The Finest Music
repeatedly presented to the eyes
and determined the fixed pattern
of the brain's response to that pic-
ture (by "canceling out" the inter-
nal activity, the so-called "noise").
The researchers were able to
predict precisely the appearance
of brain waves produced in re-
sponse to the picture by monitor-
ing the internal state of the brain
just prior to that picture's presen-
tation and combining this brain ac-
tivity with the fixed response
pattern to that picture. The pre-
dictions proved impressively ac-
curate despite the overwhelming
range of possible variations.
Moreover, the researchers were
able to tell what the eyes had just
seen for very simple pictures con-
sisting of horizontal or vertical
The scientists suggest that the
interaction between the internal
and externally imposed brain
waves may constitute a mecha-
nism of context-dependent infor-
mation processing in the cortex.
Professor Grinvald and col-
leagues have developed new neu-
ro-imaging techniques referred to
as "optical imaging," which have
for the first time made it possible
to visiislin the activity of millions
of interconnected groups of neu-
rons, enabling researchers to lit-
erally observe the brain function
at an unprecedented resolution in
time and space.
In the present study, the re-
searchers resorted to a technique
based on staining the cortex with
voltage-sensitive dyes. These dyes
are special molecules synthesized
at the Weizmann Institute, which
attach to neurons and act as tiny
transducers transforming changes
in the neurons' electrical activity
into flashing lights.
Thus, the development of opti-
cal imaging has led to the realiza-
tion of a classical science-fiction
metaphor of the British physiolo-
gist Lord Sherrington, who mar-
veled some 50 years ago at how
much easier it would be to under-
stand the brain if neurons would
light up when they "talked" to one
The first steps toward develop-
ing such imaging methods
were made in the 1970s by the
pioneering work of Dr. I. Tasaki of
the National Institutes of Health
and Dr. Lawrence Cohen of Yale
University and their colleagues. ❑
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